False Confessions: Causes, Consequences and Implications
The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 2009
13 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2009 Last revised: 18 Oct 2009
Date Written: January 1, 2009
In the last two decades, hundred of convicted prisoners have been exonerated by DNA and non-DNA evidence, revealing that police-induced false confessions are a leading cause of the wrongful conviction of the innocent. This article reviews the empirical research on the causes and correlates of false confessions. After looking at the three sequential processes that are responsible for the elicitation of false confessions - misclassification, coercion and contamination - this article reviews the three psychologically distinct types of false confession (voluntary, compliant and persuaded) and then discusses the consequences of introducing false confession evidence in the criminal justice system. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of empirical research for reducing the number of false confessions and improving the accuracy of confession evidence that is introduced against a defendant at trial.
Keywords: false confession, wrongful conviction, empirical research
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