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To Walk in Their Shoes: The Problem of Missing, Misunderstood, and Misrepresented Context in Judging Criminal Confessions

32 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2012 Last revised: 20 Jun 2014

Deborah Davis

University of Nevada, Reno

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Focusing on failures to detect false confessions, this article addresses the issue of police contamination, which has been explored in previous work by the authors as well as in Brandon Garrett’s recent book, Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong. The authors review some of Garrett’s most important findings, considering them in light of the authors’ own model of seven pathways from false confession to wrongful conviction. The authors review these pathways (the biasing effects of confession evidence; tunnel vision and confirmation biases; motivational biases; emotional influences on thinking and behavior; institutional influences on evidence production and decision-making; incorrect relevant knowledge; and progressively constricting relevant evidence), which they argue have the effect of providing incomplete and/or inaccurate contextual information for evaluating the validity of confessions and thus interfere with the rational analysis of the information that is available. The authors conclude by arguing that the judicial system must take more care in evaluating defendants’ claims of contamination in false confessions.

Keywords: false confession, criminal procedure, police interrogation, police contamination, Brandon Garrett

Suggested Citation

Davis, Deborah and Leo, Richard A., To Walk in Their Shoes: The Problem of Missing, Misunderstood, and Misrepresented Context in Judging Criminal Confessions (2012). 46 New England Law Review 737 (2011-2012); Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2012-22. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2104401

Deborah Davis

University of Nevada, Reno ( email )

Reno, NV 89557
United States

Richard Leo (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

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