The Truth About False Confessions and Advocacy Scholarship

Vol. 37, Criminal Law Bulletin, 2001

78 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2008

See all articles by Richard A. Leo

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Richard J. Ofshe

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Sociology

Abstract

In 1998 Richard A. Leo and Richard J. Ofshe published a study of false confession cases entitled, The Consequences of False Confessions: Deprivations of Liberty and Miscarriages of Justice in the Age of Psychological Interrogation, which drew a response from Paul Cassell (1999), The Guilty and the Innocent: An Examination of Alleged Cases of Wrongful Conviction from False Confessions.

In this article, the authors demonstrate that Cassells article misreports the research and analysis contained in Leo and Ofshes 1998 article, and that Cassells attempt to challenge Leo and Ofshes classifications of nine out of sixty false confessions is erroneous because Cassell excludes or presents an incomplete picture of important facts in his case summaries, selectively ignores enormous inconsistencies, implausibilities and/or contradictions in the prosecutions cases, and fails to acknowledge the existence of substantial exculpatory, if not dispositive, evidence. To illustrate the problems and biases in Cassells commentary, this article discusses at length one of Cassells challenges, the Barry Lee Fairchild case, in the main body of the article and in a detailed appendix analyzes the eight other cases (Joseph Giarratano, Paul Ingram, Richard Lapointe, Jessie Misskelley, Bradley Page, James Harry Reyos, Linda Stangel, and Martin Tankleff). Leo and Ofshe provide a point by point refutation of Cassells assertions in all nine cases, demonstrating that all nine individuals were, as originally classified, almost certainly innocent of the crimes to which they had confessed.

Keywords: Criminal procedure, Paul Cassell, wrongful convictions, false confessions, interrogation techniques

Suggested Citation

Leo, Richard A. and Ofshe, Richard J., The Truth About False Confessions and Advocacy Scholarship. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1141365

Richard A. Leo (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

Richard J. Ofshe

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Sociology ( email )

410 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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