What's new
US Message Board 🦅 Political Discussion Forum

Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

False Confessions: Silence is Golden

Divine Wind

Platinum Member
Aug 2, 2011
Reaction score
The studies mentioned in this article have some ramifications for those seeking to justify torture/"enhanced interrogation". Although torture isn't mentioned, it's obvious that it would be included
under "unpleasant interrogation".

False confessions: Silence is golden | The Economist
It seems hard to imagine that anyone of sound mind would take the blame for something he did not do. But several researchers have found it surprisingly easy to make people fess up to invented misdemeanours. Admittedly these confessions are taking place in a laboratory rather than an interrogation room, so the stakes might not appear that high to the confessor. On the other hand, the pressures that can be brought to bear in a police station are much stronger than those in a lab. The upshot is that it seems worryingly simple to extract a false confession from someone—which he might find hard subsequently to retract.

....The number of innocent confessors jumps when various interrogation techniques are added to the mix. Several experiments, for example, have focused on the use of false evidence, as when police pretend they have proof of a personÂ’s guilt in order to encourage him to confess. This is usually permitted in the United States, though banned in Britain.

A second computer-crash test conducted by Dr Kassin and Dr Perillo used this technique. Another person in the room beside the experimenter said he saw the participant hitting the ALT key. In this case the confession rate jumped to 80% of innocent participants. Dr Horselenberg and his colleagues found something similar.

....All of which is both strange and rather alarming. Dr Kassin suggests that participants may have the naive—though common—belief that the world is a just place, and that their innocence will emerge in the end, particularly in the case of the alleged video evidence. One participant, for example, told him, “it made it easier [to sign the confession] because I had nothing to hide. The cameras would prove it.”

In cases like that, confession is seen as a way to end an unpleasant interrogation. But it is a risky one. In the real world, such faith can be misplaced. Though a lot of jurisdictions require corroborating evidence, in practice self-condemnation is pretty damning—and, it seems, surprisingly easy to induce.


Wise ol' monkey
Feb 6, 2011
Reaction score
Okolona, KY
False confessions obstruct justice...
'Speeding train' interrogations can fuel false confessions
26 Dec.`11 – On Dec. 7, a Montana judge released confessed murderer Barry Beach after ruling that new evidence in his case was "credible" and that he deserved a new trial.
Beach, 49, served 28 years of a 100-year prison sentence for the 1979 murder of high school classmate Kim Nees, a crime he confessed to but has since maintained he didn't commit. Two days after Beach was freed, authorities in Illinois and New York dealt with two cases of confessions that defendants later said were coerced. The question at the heart of each of these cases — and dozens like them across the country — is: "Why would someone confess to a crime they didn't commit?"

Until recently, the idea that someone would falsely admit to a murder or a rape that they didn't commit was considered preposterous, says former Washington, D.C., homicide detective Jim Trainum. "I always ask people, 'Why would somebody ever confess to a crime they didn't do?' " Trainum says. "What is it we do in that interrogation room that convinces you that it is in your best interest to admit to something that could lead you to the death chamber?"

Trainum was a police officer for 27 years, 17 of them as a homicide detective. Now retired, Trainum serves as a consultant on cold cases and wrongful convictions where he specializes in false confessions. He says he obtained his first false confession from a suspect just one year into his tenure as a homicide detective. Trainum says he and his fellow investigators repeatedly ignored evidence that pointed away from the suspect who confessed. "It's like you're on this speeding train going down the track and it's extremely difficult to get that train to stop," Trainum says. "While you're on that train, you might be getting other leads coming in, other clues about the killer, but because we're so fixated on the suspect, often times those clues go undocumented."

Steven Drizin, a clinical law professor at Northwestern University School of Law and the legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, studied more than 250 cases of proven false confessions. Nearly all false confessions start with the "misclassification error," Drizin says. "When the police officer enters the interrogation room, they've already presumed that the suspect is guilty based on evidence that has been gathered in the course of the investigation. Often times, it's based on little more than a hunch," Drizin says.

The next error investigators often make is what Drizin calls the "coercion error." It starts when an interrogator begins accusing the suspect of committing the crime. "Where these interrogations often go awry is when police begin to make implied or direct threats," Drizin says. "They might tell the suspect that a confession will bring leniency or less time in prison. Sometimes they tell a suspect that a conviction is going to bring an extremely harsh consequence, such as the death penalty, or long sentences. Sometimes suspects are told they're going to get raped in prison."


USMB Server Goals

Total amount

Most reactions - Past 7 days

Forum List