On behalf of Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry posted in Violent Crimes on Tuesday, June 26, 2018.
A key part of American justice is the concept of innocent until proven guilty. While this is the underlying goal of the judicial system, the process is long and complicated. Police who arrest suspects do so with different motivation than a judge or jury who determines guilt and innocence.
Discussed in a recent column on the TV series The Confession Tapes, data suggests that a confession is the most effective form of evidence in finding somebody guilty. The show examines real life confessions, finding examples where innocent (and later exonerated) individuals gave false confessions.
Why would somebody act against their own best interests?
Psychologists give many reasons for forced confessions – which are different than a plea bargain, where a suspect admits guilt in exchange for a lighter sentence. Factors include forceful or deceitful police interrogation techniques and personal vulnerabilities, such as mental disabilities and addiction. Studies show that roughly one-quarter of false confessions involve vulnerable adults who respond to the pressure of an interrogation by giving in, regardless of the truth.
In addition to preying on vulnerable populations, interrogation is already stacked in the police’s favor because few people fully know their legal rights when they’re being questioned. Many people do not understand the different between being questioned versus being under arrest, nor do they know what they do not need to answer.
Worst case scenarios and changed lived
The Confession Tapes is a worst-case scenario for anybody accused of a crime. The legal system is complex and often misunderstood, which is why legal counsel is a constitutionally protected right. As the well-known Miranda Rights summarize: there is a time to talk and a time to keep your mouth shut. Even those with the best intentions can be manipulated or misconstrued.