Strategies for Preventing False Confessions and Their Consequences

PRACTICAL PSYCHOLOGY FOR FORENSIC INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS, Mark R. Kebbell and Graham M. Davies, eds., Wiley & Sons, 2006

Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2011-20

31 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2010 Last revised: 2 Aug 2011

See all articles by Deborah Davis

Deborah Davis

University of Nevada, Reno

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Abstract

Researchers have amply documented that contemporary methods of psychological interrogation can, and sometimes do, lead innocent individuals to confess falsely to serious crimes. The consequences of these false confessions can be disastrous for innocent individuals. This chapter reviews the primary causes of false confession and resultant miscarriages of justice that are subject to the influence of law enforcement and the courts. We first review the major identifiable causes of false confession, offering suggestions for ways to minimize or avoid them. We offer four primary strategies for prevention of false confessions: (i) interrogation only of those for whom there is sufficient probable cause to support guilt; (ii) educating law enforcement concerning the potential for and causes of false confessions; (iii) avoiding practices known to promote false confession; and (iv) greater training and sensitivity to the psychological vulnerabilities that render some suspects unusually susceptible to influence. Finally, we outline strategies for recognizing false confessions when they do occur, and thereby for minimizing their consequences.

Keywords: false confessions, wrongful convictions, interrogation methods, police, law enforcement

Suggested Citation

Davis, Deborah and Leo, Richard A., Strategies for Preventing False Confessions and Their Consequences. PRACTICAL PSYCHOLOGY FOR FORENSIC INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS, Mark R. Kebbell and Graham M. Davies, eds., Wiley & Sons, 2006; Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2011-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1537609

Deborah Davis

University of Nevada, Reno ( email )

Reno, NV 89557
United States

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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