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False Confessions: Causes, Consequences and Implications

The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 2009

Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2009-11

13 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2009 Last revised: 18 Oct 2009

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2009

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Leo, Richard A., False Confessions: Causes, Consequences and Implications (January 1, 2009). The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 2009; Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2009-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1328623

Richard A. Leo (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

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