Three Prongs of the Confession Problem: Issues and Proposed Solutions

in Carol Henderson & Jules Epstein, eds., The Future of Evidence: How Science and Technology Will Change The Practice of Law (ABA 2011).

32 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2010 Last revised: 26 Jun 2014

Deborah Davis

University of Nevada, Reno

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: August 3, 2010

Abstract

Many cases could not be successfully prosecuted without a confession, and, in the absence of a confession, many would be much more costly to investigate and to develop other evidence sufficient to convict. Responding to this pressure to reliably elicit confessions from their suspects, the police have developed sophisticated psychological techniques to accomplish two goals: to induce suspects to submit to questioning without an attorney, and to induce them to confess. Unfortunately, these methods are sufficiently powerful to induce false as well as true confessions and to render them involuntary. Further, because they are based upon often subtle, yet sophisticated weapons of influence, their coercive power sometimes goes unrecognized by those who must judge their voluntariness or validity. This yields a crucially important yet often unrecognized three-pronged problem with confession evidence - voluntariness, validity, and prejudicial impact. In this chapter, the authors first briefly review the nature of modern interrogation tactics, and then turn to consideration of the three-pronged confession problem, systemic barriers to recognizing and addressing the problem, and some proposed solutions.

Keywords: False Confessions, Voluntariness, Psychological Techniques, Law Enforcement

Suggested Citation

Davis, Deborah and Leo, Richard A., Three Prongs of the Confession Problem: Issues and Proposed Solutions (August 3, 2010). in Carol Henderson & Jules Epstein, eds., The Future of Evidence: How Science and Technology Will Change The Practice of Law (ABA 2011).. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1653082

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

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