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Selling Confession: Setting the Stage with the ‘Sympathetic Detective with a Time-Limited Offer’

Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, Forthcoming

Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2010-29

29 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2010 Last revised: 6 Dec 2010

Deborah Davis

University of Nevada, Reno

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

William C. Follette

University of Nevada, Reno

Date Written: April 1, 2010

Abstract

The effectiveness of an interrogation tactic dubbed the “sympathetic detective with a time limited offer” was tested. Participants read two versions of an interrogation transcript, with and without the tactic. Those who read the sympathetic detective version believed the detective had greater authority to determine whether and with what to charge the suspect, more beneficent intentions toward the suspect, and viewed confession as more wise. However, regression analyses indicated that for innocent suspects, only perceptions of the strength of evidence against the suspect and the detective’s beneficence and authority predicted the perceived wisdom of false confession. Interrogation tactics were generally effective, as indicated by participant recommendations of confession (versus invoking Miranda, denial, or continuing to talk without admitting guilt) for both innocent (16.7%) and guilty (74.4%) suspects; and reasons offered for participants’ recommendations for confession versus other choices generally conformed to those reported by real-life confessors and interrogation scholars.

Keywords: interrogation, false confession, sympathy, authority, beneficence

Suggested Citation

Davis, Deborah and Leo, Richard A. and Follette, William C., Selling Confession: Setting the Stage with the ‘Sympathetic Detective with a Time-Limited Offer’ (April 1, 2010). Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, Forthcoming; Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2010-29. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1597407

Deborah Davis (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Reno ( email )

Reno, NV 89557
United States

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

William C. Follette

University of Nevada, Reno ( email )

Reno, NV 89557
United States

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