The Causes

In more than 20% of exonerated cases the defendants made incriminating statements or gave outright confessions to crimes that DNA evidence later proved they did not commit. There are many reasons why defendants give false confessions:

  • Duress
  • Coercion
  • Intoxication
  • Diminished capacity
  • Mental impairment
  • Ignorance of the law
  • Fear of violence
  • Infliction of harm by interrogator
  • Threat of harsh sentence
  • Misunderstanding of situation

Mental State of the Confessor

  • Juvenile confessions are often unreliable, because children can be easily manipulated or do not fully understand the situation. Both juveniles and adults think that they can go home if they just confess.
  • People with disabilities are likely to give a false confession, because they are tempted to accommodate and respect authority. In addition, most interrogators lack the training to question people who are mentally disabled, which can lead to false confessions.
  • Lengthy interrogations or exhaustion can also cause people to falsely confess. Some also believe that they can confess now and go home and worry about proving their actual innocence later.

The Remedy

All states should follow Minnesota’s lead in mandating all interrogations to be electronically recorded with audio and video. These recordings help both prosecutors and defense lawyers accurately portray the confession of the accused while also identifying false confessions.

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