Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=967364
 


 



Criminal Performances: Film, Autobiography, and Confession


Jessica M. Silbey


Suffolk University Law School


New Mexico Law Review, Vol. 37, p. 189, 2007
Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 07-11

Abstract:     
This article questions the criminal justice emphasis on filmed confession as the superlative evidentiary proffer that promotes accuracy and minimizes unconstitutional coercion by comparing filmed confessions to autobiographical film. It suggests that analyzing filmed confessions as a kind of autobiographical film exposes helpful tensions between the law's reliance on confession as revealing the inner self and the literary and filmic conception of confession as constituting one self among many. Through a close examination of several filmed confessions along side an examination of the history of autobiographical writing and film, this article shows how filmed confessions do not reveal the truthfulness or honesty of the defendant's statement. To the contrary, close examination of filmed confessions evidences the performative aspect of all confessional acts.

Like autobiographical film subjects, filmed defendants perform their criminality, or enact their legal identity as guilty on film. Framing the confession through a film camera (as increasingly police and detectives do) stresses the qualities of confessional speech as always in the process of forming an identity, and therefore as inherently unstable and manifold. Building on an earlier article that criticizes the nationwide trend that requires the filming of criminal confessions by comparing filmed confessions to a form of documentary filmmaking, this article engages the same critique by examining filmed confessions as a form of autobiographical film. Doing so relocates the analysis of the filmed confessions from one of truthfulness and voluntariness of the spoken confession to one of advocacy and persuasion by the speaking subject. Analysis of several filmed confessions shows how filmed confessions are more akin to filmed autobiographies: performances of identity in relation to the constraints of the discursive medium (the interrogation). What we learn from the filmed confession is the limits of film and of law to reveal the truth of the crime. This critical perspective undermines the state's assertion that filmed confessions unambiguously denote the defendant's voluntary recitation of his criminal act.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 59

Keywords: film, evidence, confession, law and literature, law and film, law and culture, cultural analysis of law, criminal law, Fifth Amendment

Accepted Paper Series


Download This Paper

Date posted: March 2, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Silbey, Jessica M., Criminal Performances: Film, Autobiography, and Confession. New Mexico Law Review, Vol. 37, p. 189, 2007; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 07-11. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=967364

Contact Information

Jessica M. Silbey (Contact Author)
Suffolk University Law School ( email )
120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States
617 305 6270 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.suffolk.edu/law/faculty/22481.php?InstructorID=819&Name=Jessica%20Silbey

Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,529
Downloads: 99
Download Rank: 152,125

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo8 in 0.469 seconds