Wrongful Conviction and False Confessions
Wrongful Conviction and False Confessions
The study of wrongful convictions has a long time history in America. For more than eight decades, writers-mostly lawyers, journalists, and activists- have documented numerous convictions of the innocent and described their cause and consequences (Borchard, 1932: Radin, 1964: Scheck, Neaufeld & Dwyer, 2000). When dealing with wrongful conviction (with results of false confessions) there are several areas to consider. Some of the areas to consider would be: the Miranda rights read to the accused, the police interrogation of the accused, and the emotional/mental condition of the accused. The United State Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case Miranda v. Arizona that because of the inherent coercion present in the police interrogation all suspects must be made aware of their rights against self-incrimination and the right to counsel. When the case reached the Supreme Courts in 1966, Ernesto Miranda had confessed to the rape and kidnapping after about two hours of interrogation. The appeal to the Supreme Court alleged that Miranda was not aware of his rights to remain silent (Fifth Amendment) and to counsel (Sixth Amendment). The Courts rule in the favor of Miranda and the decision instituted what we have come to know as the “Miranda Rights.” To safe guard a suspect falling into an involuntary confession, because he thinks he has no choice to speak, the police must expressly, clearly and completely advise any suspect of their rights to silent and counsel before beginning interrogation or any other attempt to get a statement from a suspect. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questions. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge if you wish.’ (Longly, Robert). At this point the accused have the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney present before the interrogation begins. If the accused do waive their rights the detective will then begin the interrogation.
Once the interrogation begins, the detective can unconsciously ignore any evidence of innocence in pursuit of a confession. Interrogation is a guilt-presumptive process. The goal is to get the suspect to confess to the crime. For the past 50 years in the United States, based on the police interrogations, have changed from the use of physical intimidation to a more sophisticated use of psychological manipulation. R. A Leo, (1996) sociologist, wrote that “contemporary interrogation strategies are based on the manipulation and betrayal of trust,” A man named John Reid, polygraph analysts, began noticing that subject exhibited certain outward, consistent physical signs that coincided with polygraph’s determinations of untruthfulness. This observation caused him to develop a system of interrogation, to save cost on doing a polygraph test, which uncovered weaknesses the interrogator can use against a suspect to obtain a confession. As a result of his method, it is now the most widely used set of interrogation tactics. The training manual, which is considered to be the “bible” of police interrogation, was developed in 1947 and is now in its fourth edition (Reid 4th ed. 2001). Police interrogators who are trained in these methods are taught to assume guilt, to manipulate the suspect’s emotions and expectations, and to take into account nonverbal behavioral cues, such as hesitant speech, sweating, or dry mouth, as indicators of deception. However these cues, in addition to being general indicators of stress, may appear more frequently among persons with mental illness because of their illness or the medications they are taken. Police interrogation approached can be characterized as involving either minimization technique or maximization technique (Kassin 1997). In...
References: Borchard, 1932; Radin, 1964; Scheck, Neufeld & Dwyer, 2000
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