Just Confessions

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  • Topic: False confession, Interrogation, Interrogations
  • Pages : 2 (748 words )
  • Download(s) : 40
  • Published : September 30, 2013
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Saul Kassin and Gisli Gudjonsson, in their article for Scientific American Mind, “True Crimes, False Confessions,” argue that “society should discuss the urgent need to reform practices that contribute to false confessions and to require mandatory videotaping of all interviews and interrogations” (2005, p. 26). After analyzing their argument, I shall argue that, although one might object that Kassin and Gudjonsson focus too heavily on the importance of protecting criminal suspects, they provide a compelling argument that social justice requires such reforms as mandatory video-tapping of police interrogations. In developing their case for the need to reform interrogation tactics, Kassin and Gudjonsson survey a number of studies regarding the role of confessions in criminal investigations. For example, they are at pains to provide evidence that interrogations are often influenced by a bias on the part of the interrogator. Further concern is found in the fact that Miranda rights, as found in the American legal system, are insufficient safeguards, given that suspects, especially innocent ones, often waive those rights. Finally, Kassin and Gudjonsson note that aggressive interrogation tactics can often produce false confessions. What makes these findings most troubling, according to Kassin and Gudjonsson, is the strong correlation between false confession and wrongful conviction. Trial jurors, we are told, are inclined to give disproportionate weight to a confessions, even taking it to outweigh so-called “hard evidence.” As a characteristic example, Kassin and Gudjonsson cite the case of Bruce Godschalk. Even when DNA evidence proved Godschalk could not have been the rapist, the District Attorney of the case refused to release him from prison, stating that “…I trust my detective and his tape-recorded evidence” (Kassin and Gudjonsson, 2005, p. 28). Because of this tendency on the part of jurors and prosecutors, together with the facts listed above...
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