Description: Sometimes an individual who has confessed to a crime recants or withdraws their confession. What comes to mind when you read that sentence? Knowing nothing else about an individual case, what would you estimate is the likelihood that the person recanting a confession is actually guilty of what they origin ally confessed to? Now consider this fact. Police in the United States and Canada (where the practice if frowned upon) are allowed to lie to possible suspects while they are interrogating them. To what extent might police interrogators lying to a possible subject who then pled guilty change your original answer to the “what comes to mind” question I asked above? Think about that and then read through the article linked below to see what sorts of considerations and research might be involved in trying to sort out these question.
Source: It’s Time for Police to Stop Lying to Suspects, Saul Kassin, The New York Times.
Date: January 29, 2021
It is hard to wrap one’s head around the circumstances under which an individual might end up confessing to a crime they did not commit. The role that explicit lies by their interrogators might play in their confessions is hard to sort out. Clearly being presented with false incriminating information plays a strong role as reflected by the American Psychological Association’s and a large group of confession experts stated opinions against such police behavior reflects. It is important to note that these positions include the statement that such police behavior can alter a suspect’s memory for the events in question. It is not that they give up and go along with the lies of their interrogators but rather that they come to think that they remember doing things they did not do. IT would seem that in Canada we should perhaps do more than frown upon such police behavior during interrogations and the United States should consider moving well away from condoning such actions. The research data support such changes.
Questions for Discussion:
- Why might a suspect confess to a crime they did not commit?
- What role might interrogators’ lying about evidence implicating a possible suspect play in that suspect possibly confessing to a crime they did not commit?
- How might it be that some of those who confess to crimes they did not commit actually “remember” that committed the crimes?
References (Read Further):
Kassin, S. M., Drizin, S. A., Grisso, T., Gudjonsson, G. H., Leo, R. A., & Redlich, A. D. (2010). Police-induced confessions: Risk factors and recommendations. Law and human behavior, 34(1), 3-38. Link
Gudjonsson, G. H., & Pearse, J. (2011). Suspect interviews and false confessions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20(1), 33-37. Link
APA (2014) Resolution on Interrogations of Criminal Suspects. Link
Kassin, S. M., Redlich, A. D., Alceste, F., & Luke, T. J. (2018). On the general acceptance of confessions research: Opinions of the scientific community. American Psychologist, 73(1), 63. Link
Stewart, J. M., Woody, W. D., & Pulos, S. (2018). The prevalence of false confessions in experimental laboratory simulations: A meta‐analysis. Behavioral sciences & the law, 36(1), 12-31. Link
Gubi-Kelm, S., Grolig, T., Strobel, B., Ohlig, S., & Schmidt, A. F. (2020). When do false accusations lead to false confessions? Preliminary evidence for a potentially overlooked alternative explanation. Journal of Forensic Psychology Research and Practice, 20(2), 114-133. Link
Vick, K., Cook, K. J., & Rogers, M. (2020). Lethal leverage: false confessions, false pleas, and wrongful homicide convictions in death-eligible cases. Contemporary Justice Review, 1-19. Link
Paton, W., Bain, S. A., Gozna, L., Gilchrist, E., Heim, D., Gardner, E., … & Fischer, R. (2018). The combined effects of questioning technique and interviewer manner on false confessions. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 15(3), 335-349. Link
Bernhard, P. A., & Miller, R. S. (2018). Juror perceptions of false confessions versus witness recantations. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 25(4), 539-549. Link