The Consequences of False Confessions: Deprivations of Liberty and Miscarriages of Justice in the Age of Psychological Interrogation
Richard A. Leo
University of San Francisco - School of Law
Richard J. Ofshe
University of California, Berkeley - Department of Sociology
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 88, 1998
This article studies the precise impact that false confessions have on criminal defendants. Using evidence from sixty cases of police-induced false confessions in which the defendant's confession is not supported by any physical or reliable inculpatory evidence, the authors explore the impact of unreliable confession evidence on criminal justice officials, the jurors and the criminal justice system.
The article demonstrates that a trier of fact may be so biased by a false confession that it will likely favor prosecution and conviction despite strong evidence of innocence, often leading to a defendant's incarceration and even death. Additionally, the article finds that, despite Miranda, contemporary law enforcement personnel continue to employ coercive and manipulative methods.
To prevent miscarriages of justice caused by false confessions, prosecutors, judges, and juries should carefully scrutinize and evaluate a suspect's post-admission narrative against the known facts of the crime. The article also asserts that mandatory video- or audio-recording of police interrogations would greatly decrease the risk of harm caused by false confessions by reducing the use of psychologically coercive interrogation methods.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 68
Keywords: Criminal procedure, Miranda, false confessions, criminal justice system, empirical legal research, interrogations, taping, recording, wrongful convictions
Date posted: May 16, 2008