False Confessions: Criminal Process in Need of Reform

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. 013).

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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, or therwise psychologically disordered. And people, who are mentally retarded, are particularly prone to confess under pressure (Gudjonsson, G. 2003). Those who are under educated and youth are particularly a high risk factor for false confessions, even though many states require a parent or other adult to be present for questioning the adult often tell the juveniles to cooperate with police and adolescents display an “immaturity of judgment” in their decision making (Owen-Kostelnik, Reppucci, & Meyer, 2006).

False Confessions There are three types of false confessions. Kassin identified these three types of false confessions, Voluntary false confessions are those made “without prompting the police,” Compliant false confessions are those in which, “the suspect acquiesces in order to escape from a stressful situation, avoid punishment, or gain a promise or implied reward,”. The compliant false confession stems from police interrogation.

The compliant confessor still believes in her or his innocence. The third type is the internalized false confession. Kassin defines this type as ”those in which innocent but vulnerable suspects, exposed to highly suggestive interrogation tactics, not only confess but come to believe they committed the crime in question”. Because these individuals believe they committed the crime, they may be likely to pass a polygraph admitting to the crime (Kassin, S. 2008). Problems of False Confessions

False confessions possess negative consequences. The primary issue is that an innocent person is convicted and may be sentenced to death or a lengthy prison sentence, while the guilty individual remains at large and is a risk to the community. Another issue is significant costs of prosecution and wasted resources. When DNA exonerations are more and more evident it shows that there are three sets of problems and lowers the credibility of the criminal justice system.

These three sets of problems of confession evidence: (a) Police cannot accurately distinguish between truth tellers and liars; (b) certain psychological interrogation tactics put innocents at risk to confess, especially if they are young, mentally impaired, or otherwise vulnerable; and (c) judges and juries intuitively tend to trust confessions, even if they know that these confessions were coerced (Kassin, S. 2008). Reforms Having identified issues within our criminal justice system and a suspect’s reasoning for giving a false confession there are reforms that must be made to find correct prosecution of the guilty not the innocent.

Such recommendations for reform are as such, DNA testing on all suspect cases to prove guilt or innocence even after a confession. As mentioned by Kassin Electronic recording of a whole interrogation process, all custodial interviews and interrogations of felony suspects should be videotaped in their entirety and with a camera angle that focuses equally on the suspect and interrogator (Kassin, S. 2009). It would not only help to safeguard the legal rights of suspects but the integrity of the process.

Benefits to law enforcement would inhibit suspects, helping police officers obtain a voluntary confession, nabbing accomplices, and protecting officers from false allegations of abuse. The post-DNA age, wrongful convictions have grown, and continue to do so; concerns about the reliability of confession evidence have to a push for recording requirements (Drizin, S. & Reich, M. 2004). Reform of interrogation practices by police, district attorneys, defense lawyers, judges, researchers, and policymakers need to evaluate current methods of interrogation doing so could secure confessions from perpetrators but not from innocent suspect’s.

Structure in theory and in practice to produce outcomes that are accurate as Kassin suggests, because Miranda does not adequately safeguard the innocent, and the process should be converted from confrontational to investigative. (Kassin, S. 2009). Research shows that in proven false confession cases the interrogations had lasted for an average of 16. 3 hours (Drizen, S. & Leo, R. 2004). Human needs for belonging, affiliation, and social support, especially in times of stress, are a fundamental motive.

Prolonged isolation from significant others constitutes a form of deprivation that can heighten a suspect’s distress and increase his or her need to escape the situation. A proposal for the imposition of time limits, or at least flexible guidelines, when it comes to detention and interrogation, as well as periodic breaks from questioning for rest and meals. When it comes to presentation of false evidence this tactic is often seen as incontrovertible and takes the form of outright lying to suspects but, as Clarke, Milne have suggested that even hough in Great Britain, where police have long been prohibited from deceiving suspects about the evidence, relying instead on the investigative interviewing tactics, there has been no evidence of a decline in confession rates (Clarke, C. & Milne, R. 2001).

With Minimization tactics which communicates promises of leniency indirectly through pragmatic implication, and although a majority of states hold that a promise of leniency is only one factor to be considered in determining whether a confession is involuntary (White, W. 003) multiple sources support the proposition that implicit promises can put innocents at risk to confess by leading them to perceive that the only way to lessen or escape punishment is by complying with the interrogator’s demand for confession, especially when minimization is used on suspects who are led to believe that their continued denial is futile and that prosecution is inevitable (Kassin, S. 2009). And finally the last reform suggested would be the protection of the vulnerable suspect populations.

Vulnerable suspect populations-namely, juveniles and people who are cognitively impaired or psychologically disordered. Juveniles and individuals with cognitive impairments or psychological disorders are particularly susceptible to false confession under pressure. Fred Inbau wrote that “special protections must be afforded to juveniles and to all other persons of below-average intelligence, to minimize the risk of untruthful admissions due to their vulnerability to suggestive questioning. And advised against the use of false evidence ploy with youthful suspects or those with diminished mental capacity: “These suspects may not have fortitude or confidence to challenge such evidence and, depending on the nature of the crime, may become confused as to their own possible involvement” (Inbau, F. 2001).

In protecting the vulnerable suspect a mandatory advisement by a professional advocate, preferably an attorney, trained to serve in this role (Gudjonsson, G. 003) and means of protection, law enforcement perssonel who conduct interviews and interrogations should receive special training- not only on the limits of human lie detection, false confessions, and the perils of confirmation biases- but on the added risks to individuals who are young, immature, mentally retarded, psychologically disordered, or in other ways vulnerable to manipulation.

Police could benefit from special training with regard to the interrogation of juvenile suspects, in light of research by Inbau it is agreed cautionary otes and their heightened risk for false confession this is a must (Inbau, F. 2001). Conclusion Researchers have documented and analyzed how and why contemporary methods of psychological interrogation can, and sometimes do lead innocent individuals to confess falsely to serious crimes. The consequences of these false confessions are disastrous for innocent individuals who are wrongly convicted and incarcerated.

And as a result researchers have suggested ways to minimize the number of false confessions that police elicit and once elicited lead to wrongful convictions. The single most important policy reform is the mandatory electronic recording of police interrogations in their entirety, because it creates an objective, comprehensive, and reviewable record of the interrogation that all parties-police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, juries, and the public can review.

Other reforms proposed including improved police training about false confessions, putting time limits on interrogations, prohibiting certain interrogation techniques, and providing safeguards for vulnerable populations such as the developmentally disabled and juveniles. These reforms however are likely to occur slowly in the United States. American law enforcement still is in use of investigative methods and interrogative techniques that continue to cause three errors that produce false confessions.

Until the American Justice System discontinues their tactics that cause false confessions and the misconception that innocent suspects do not confess in response to psychological interrogations the researchers must continue to conduct research to educate the public of the costly mistakes made from false confessions. Not only to protect the innocent from giving false confessions and being wrongfully convicted while the guilty run free putting society at risk but, to give better credibility to our American Justice system and their tactics.

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