Disputed Interrogation Techniques in America: True and False Confessions and the Estimation and Valuation of Type I and II Errors
in Sarah Cooper, ed., Controversies in Innocence Cases in America (Ashgate Publishing 2014).
16 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2013 Last revised: 26 Jun 2014
Date Written: June 1, 2013
American studies of wrongful conviction have revealed a disturbing pattern. For roughly 25 percent of such cases the defendant was wrongfully convicted in part as the result of a false confession or false guilty plea. In this chapter, we first discuss the evidence that false confessions are a problem. We then review the causes of false confession, with emphasis on police interrogation techniques and interrogation-induced false confession. In this context, we discuss the specific interrogation techniques most strongly implicated in the production of false confessions, as well as specific reforms widely suggested by interrogation scholars to reduce the incidence of interrogation-induced false confession. Finally, the main body of the chapter addresses the issue of how the courts have treated the difficult issues raised by the undeniable problem of false confession and the role of coercive interrogation practices in producing them. Specifically, we address the courts’ rulings regarding the acceptability of specific interrogation practices and the conditions under which a confession is to be regarded as “voluntary” and hence admissible as evidence in trial.
Keywords: criminal law, wrongful conviction, false confession, police interrogation, criminal justice, law enforcement, criminal procedure
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