False Confessions and the Constitution: Problems, Possibilities and Solutions
in John T. Parry & L. Song Richardson, eds.,THE CONSTITUTION AND THE FUTURE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE IN AMERICA (Cambridge University Press 2013).
19 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2012 Last revised: 26 Jun 2014
Date Written: 2012
This chapter reviews some of the main empirical findings from more than three decades of social science research on the causes, consequences and indicia of police-induced false confessions. The author couches this discussion in the context of the three sequential errors -- misclassification, coercion and contamination -- that occur in virtually all police-induced false confessions and that combine to create the powerful, but erroneous, appearance that a false confession is true and persuasive, sometimes leading to a wrongful conviction. This chapter also reviews the constitutional law of criminal procedure governing the admissibility of confession evidence in American courts. The author argues that this body of law fails both to meaningfully protect suspects against interrogation methods that cause false confessions and to prevent the use of false confession evidence against them at trial. The chapter concludes with the recommendation that the United States Supreme Court should interpret the Fourteenth Amendment as independently allowing courts to exclude unreliable confession evidence on due process grounds alone and/or create a different doctrinal mechanism for courts to exclude false confession evidence prior to trial.
Keywords: false confession, police interrogation, criminal procedure, constitutional law, Fourteenth Amendment
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