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What Do Potential Jurors Know about Police Interrogation Techniques and False Confessions?

Behavioral Sciences and the Law, April 2009

Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2009-17

19 Pages Posted: 14 May 2009 Last revised: 7 Oct 2009

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Brittany Liu

University of California, Irvine

Date Written: April 1, 2009

Abstract

Psychological police interrogation methods in America inevitably involve some level of pressure and persuasion to achieve their goal of eliciting confessions of guilt from custodial suspects. In this article, we surveyed potential jurors about their perceptions of a range of psychological interrogation techniques, the likelihood that such techniques would elicit a true confession from guilty suspects and the likelihood that such techniques could elicit a false confession from innocent suspects. Participants recognized that these interrogation techniques may be psychologically coercive and may elicit true confessions, but that psychologically coercive interrogation techniques are not likely to elicit false confessions. The findings from this survey study indicate that potential jurors believe that false confessions are both counter-intuitive and unlikely, even in response to psychologically coercive interrogation techniques that have been shown to lead to false confessions from the innocent. This study provides empirical support for the idea that expert witnesses may helpfully inform jurors about the social science research on psychologically coercive interrogation methods and how and why such interrogation techniques can lead to false confessions.

Keywords: psychological police interrogation methods, law enforcement, false confessions, juries, expert testimony

Suggested Citation

Leo, Richard A. and Liu, Brittany, What Do Potential Jurors Know about Police Interrogation Techniques and False Confessions? (April 1, 2009). Behavioral Sciences and the Law, April 2009; Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2009-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1404078

Richard A. Leo (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

Brittany Liu

University of California, Irvine ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
Psychology & Social Behavior Dept
Irvine, CA 62697-7085
United States

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