October 12, 2009
Kassin, Drizin, Grisso, Gudjonsson, Leo & Redlich on Police-Induced Confessions
Recent DNA exonerations have shed light on the problem that people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit. Drawing on police practices, laws concerning the admissibility of confession evidence, core principles of psychology, and forensic studies involving multiple methodologies, this White Paper summarizes what is known about police-induced confessions. In this review, we identify suspect characteristics (e.g., adolescence; intellectual disability; mental illness; and certain personality traits), interrogation tactics (e.g., excessive interrogation time; presentations of false evidence; and minimization), and the phenomenology of innocence (e.g., the tendency to waive Miranda rights) that influence confessions as well as their effects on judges and juries. This article concludes with a strong recommendation for the mandatory electronic recording of interrogations and considers other possibilities for the reform of interrogation practices and the protection of vulnerable suspect populations.
October 12, 2009 | Permalink
Maybe a fraction of false confessions capable of withstanding even minimal scrutiny can be pinned on problems of adolescence, intellectual disability, mental illness or personality problems.
But most false confessions are more likely a consequence of (1) vague, sweeping "get tough" laws capable of criminalizing pretty much any activity (2) win-at-any-cost prosecutors (riveted on supporting law enforcement agents and boosting their own W-L records, not on discovering truth) (3) mandatory minimum sentences that, when properly leveraged by prosecutors, typically put the risks of losing at trial too high even for the innocent and wrongly accused and (4) the ruinous financial cost of fighting leviathan and the long odds against beating it.
Negotiating plea agreements typically costs tens of thousands of dollars. Fighting the government in complicated trials typically costs upwards of a quarter-million dollars.
Never mind that the government has enormous power to compel (bribe) favorable testimony from snitches and others eager to avoid being pulled deeper into the meat grinder themselves.
Never mind that appeals courts review cases in the light most favorable to the government, not the citizen.
Put another way, the government holds pretty much all the chips whether it's facing dastardly criminals or innocent citizens who've had the misfortune of attracting the attention of the authorities.
But, yes, recording interrogations might help.
Posted by: John K | Oct 13, 2009 7:30:16 AM