False Confessions: Criminal Process in Need of Reform

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  • Topic: Interrogation, False confession, Law enforcement
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  • Published : July 31, 2013
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False Confessions

Criminal Process In Need Of Reform
False Confessions
Shareen Mioskowski
UW-Platteville
2013

Abstract

With the pressure on the police too often the innocent are giving false confessions because of aggressive interrogation tactics with wrongful convictions as a result. And although post-conviction DNA testing has proven and exonerated some of those that were innocent and imprisoned there has been a renewed focus to reform reliability of the interrogation process to improve the accuracy of confessions and safeguard the integrity of the criminal process.

Police Approach
There are two errors that can occur within the police approach to an innocent person which can lead to a path of false confession. First being the misclassification error, when police and detectives decide that an innocent person is guilty. As Davis and Leo provide us with “the path to false confession begins, as it must, when police target an innocent suspect…Once specific suspects are targeted, police interviews, and interrogations are thereafter guided by the presumptions of guilt” (Davis, D. & Leo, R. 2006). Some reasons for mistakenly targeting innocent persons as guilty and misclassification may be poor training, being taught falsely that they are capable of distinguishing truth from deception (Leo, R. 2013). Another reason may be the most noticed person fitting a very general description given by an eyewitness or just fitting a given profile. The second approach, the coercion error. When no other evidence against the subject can be found, getting a confession becomes of outmost importance, and with the misclassification of an innocent person they are often subjected to accusation interrogation. The primary cause of police-induced false confession is psychologically coercive police methods. Two ways of the psychological coercion can be defined: police use of interrogation techniques that are regarded as inherently coercive in psychology and law, or police use of interrogation techniques that, cumulatively cause a suspect to perceive that he has no choice but to comply with interrogator’s demands (Leo, R. 2013). With coercion there are police practices in interrogations that can also lead to false confessions. Although police have been trained not to contaminate a confession, doing so by feeding or leaking crucial facts. Feeding facts contaminates a confession because if a suspect is told how the crime happened, then police can never again properly test the suspect’s knowledge (Garrett, B. 2010). Interrogation

Aggressive tactics are sometimes practiced by interrogators. Garrett states use of deceptive techniques where voluntariness standard does not prohibit any particular psychological techniques, and police regularly employ a series of strategies to place pressure to confess on unwilling suspects (Garrett, B. 2010). These interrogations feature the use of techniques to both threaten negative consequences for not confessing and to reward the confession. Kassin states why innocent people confess in Table one: Ten Most Frequent Interrogation Practices (Kassin, S. 2008). 1. Isolating the suspect from family and friends.

2. Conducting interrogation in a small private room.
3. Identifying contradictions in the suspect’s story.
4. Establishing rapport/gaining the suspect’s trust.
5. Confronting the suspect with evidence of guilt.
6. Appealing to the suspect’s self-interest.
7. Offering sympathy, moral justifications, and excuses.
8. Interrupting the suspect’s denials and objections.
9. Pretending to have independent evidence of guilt.
10. Minimizing the moral seriousness of the offense.
Others include lack of food, lack of sleep, length of interrogation, and relay of questioning. There are also subject’s personal influences that some people are dispositionally more malleable than others. Those with a mental illness, people who are highly anxious, fearful, depressed, delusional,...
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