False confessions more common then you think

Jordan Boyer, Photo Editor

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Recently I have been reading up on false confessions made by suspects during interrogations by police officers. A false confession is an admission of guilt to crime that is not true. It usually happens due to coercion or mental instability and disability.

This is more common of an occurrence then you think. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 12% of exonerations have false confession as a contributing factor. Also the Innocence Project states that more than 1 out of 4 people exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or a criminating statement.

These certainly are shocking statistics. There are many factors that contribute to this type of false admission of guilt like the ones I stated above. However, there are many more factors to know about these confessions. The Innocence Project has many reasons, but the most note worthy factors are: Compromised reasoning ability due to exhaustion, hunger, stress, substance abuse, lack of an education, or mental limitations. Also, police using unethical techniques such as untrue statements about incriminating evidence.

This is not an article to attack any police officers; I am just trying to say that this does happen sometimes, the statistics show these facts. Unfortunately some police officers use these intimidation techniques to get a confessions, it is just a question of whether it is a true confession or not.

The false confessions plea has gained some media attention in the past. Famous cases/ people such as Brendan Dassey from “Making a Murderer” and Jessie Misskelley from the West Memphis Three (which was later made into a documentary “Paradise Lost”) have brought this problem to the mass media.

False confessions can be prevented if the right measures are taken. Make sure to have a full-unedited recording of the interview so there is evidence to back up any misconduct or coercion techniques. Also, the police need to be aware of the situations/ people who susceptible to false confession. The New York Times states that young children and mentally disabled individuals are prone to suggestion from an authority figure such as a police officer.

Now this type of plea only became relevant in the past 20-30 years. It will be interesting to figure out past cases had a contributing factor such as false confession. Maybe DNA evidence can shed light on these false confessions from over 50-60 years ago, if they have ever occurred.

Spreading information on the facts about false confession may help out people who are currently serving prison time for a crime they did not commit, or it could help out a future individual who was coerced into a confession. People like Misskelley and Dassey are only two of the many instances of a probable false confession.

This issue is a serious problem in crime and punishment and the statistics show the prevalence of this unfortunate factor. Many factors can lead to a false imprisonment, and now this is only one more factor to be aware of and look out for in future criminal cases.

Jordan Boyer is a senior history major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]