False Confession?


Politics, MyRamblings, Science

by maria on 21 Sep 2010 - 14:00  

I have recently started reading a blog with a bit of a narcissistic byline, "What the smartest people on the net read." Fortunately, they seem to be living up to their name. I found the blog post, What would you do? to be especially interesting. The post is discussing an article by Professor Garrett that is about the surprising amount of detail that can be found in false confessions gathered by police officers, and how this detail is most likely being disclosed to them during the interrogation process. People seem to instinctively believe that false confessions would be weak, but the detail included in most of these confessions makes them seem substantial. The blog post recommends making changes to the criminal procedures to take into account the reliability of confessions and their content.

It seems that many people think that most people are not likely to confess to crimes they did not commit. I wonder if this is because most people believe that they themselves would not give in. After all, we are talking about situations where physical torture is not involved. I have always thought of myself as pretty strong, but have recently found myself in a situation where I allowed myself to be psychologically manipulated, and did not even realize it until a few hours later. I'm not trying to say that people offering false confessions do not realize they are giving false confessions, but that our ability to resist may be very dependent on the situation. If there is one thing I have learned about myself during my life, it is that I don't know myself as well as I thought I did. I am capable of surprising myself when I find myself in a novel situation, and being falsely accused of a crime would fall into that category. From the post, "According to one person who (falsely) committed to a crime, "You've never been in a situation so intense, and you're naive about your rights,' he said. 'You don't know what you'll say to get out of that situation.'"

Changing criminal procedures to take into account the reliability of confessions and their content seems especially important, because according to another article Farnam Street Blog did a post about, jurors don't even discount evidence obtained from rough treatment. It therefor seems really unlikely that they would take into consideration the validity of a confession full of detail and taken when rough treatment isn't involved. The Garrett article recommends "a series of reforms that focus on the insidious problem of contamination, particularly videotaping interrogations in their entirety, but also reframing police procedures, trial practice, and judicial review." I concur.

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21.09.2010 - 20:19  

Tom comments:

That blog does rock. And I've never had much use for blogs. Also, I confess. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnAQRodZNp0