Commentary: Overcoming Judicial Preferences for Person- Versus Situation-Based Analyses of Interrogation-Induced Confessions
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2010
9 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2010 Last revised: 13 Jul 2012
Date Written: 2010
This article identifies some fundamentally mistaken assumptions underlying admissibility decisions favoring disposition-related expert testimony regarding individual vulnerability to false confession over situation-based testimony describing how the context or nature of interrogation can promote false confessions. The authors argue that it is important to understand both the forces of influence within police interrogations and the individual differences that enhance vulnerability to these forces. Most false confessions occur in the context of interrogation and in response to the sources of distress and persuasive tactics of the interrogation. For this reason, this article suggests that experts asked to evaluate an interrogation-induced confession should be able to answer the following questions during their testimony: 1) What are the sources of distress facing the suspect during interrogation and how strong are they; 2) What has happened during the interrogation that might promote the suspect's misperception that confession will be inconsequential or in his or her best interest; and 3) How are distress, distress intolerance, and rational analyses of the net consequences of confession interrelated. Without testimony from experts who can clearly explain interrogation practices that produce distress, impair rational judgment, and cause suspects to believe that confessing will be inconsequential, judges and juries are unlikely to recognize false confession among any but the obviously impaired.
Keywords: expert testimony, false confessions, interrogation-induced confessions
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