Protecting the Innocent from False Confessions and Lost Confessions – And from Miranda
Paul G. Cassell
University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 88, No. 2, 1998
Criminal procedure scholarship has spent little time discussing the guiltless and much discussing the guilty. Recent attempts to correct this problem have led to discussions of the plight of an innocent person who confessed to a crime he did not commit. These discussions call for still more regulation of police interrogations without attempting to quantify the problem. Such a focus is incomplete because the innocent are at risk not only when police extract untruthful confessions but also when police fail to obtain truthful confessions from criminals. It is possible that more regulation aimed at reducing false confessions may produce such a substantial drop in truthful confessions as to pose a greater risk to the innocent.
The aim of this empirical essay is to think more carefully about “the numbers” – that is, to try and place the risk to the innocent from false confessions, lost confessions, and lost convictions into some perspective. Part I attempts to quantify the dimensions of the false confession problem. Part II then turns to an assessment of the relative risk to the innocent from false confessions versus lost confessions. False confessions are a relatively infrequent cause of wrongful convictions while truthful confessions are perhaps the most frequent way in which miscarriages of justice are uncovered. Finally, Part III provides an escape from these tradeoffs by suggesting videotaping of police interrogation as a substitute for the restrictive Miranda rules.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 60
Keywords: victim, crime victim, impact statement, criminal justice, sentencing
Date posted: August 19, 2011
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