Courts often face the challenge of false confessions. False confession takes center stage when an individual admits they are guilty of a crime, and yet they are not responsible for that crime. It is a disturbing behavior that is challenging to detect (Kassim, 2008). This phenomenon can be induced by the incompetency or mental disorder of an individual or through coercion. False confessions fall in three main types.
Voluntary False Confession
These types of confessions are given freely even in the absence of police probing. At times, voluntary false confessions might be done as a form of sacrifice (Kassim, 2008). In such a case, the person in question admits that he or she is guilty in order to divert attention from the real offender. A good example is when a parent lies in order to save a child from jail. On a lighter note, others may opt to provide voluntary false confession in order to enjoy the attention that is accorded to such testimonies.
Complaint False Confessions
Those who give such a confession do so in order to avert a stressful, in exchange for a reward or avoid punishment (Kassim, 2008). Reid technique, a powerful interrogation technique, seeks to prove to the confessor that they will attain a moral appeasement should they confess. In addition, material rewards such as the cessation of interrogation or coffee are used and have proved to have the same effect. On the other hand, others my provide complaint false confessions in order to avoid harsh sentences; they use it as a bargaining tool.
Internalized False Confessions
This form of confession takes place when an individual genuinely believes they are guilty due to highly suggestive interrogative techniques (Kassim, 2008).
Innocent project reports that up to 25 percent of convicted criminals who were ultimately acquitted had confessed to the crime (Kassim et al., 2010). Interrogators often use the bluffing technique. When this technique is used, interrogators claim that they have sufficient evidence against the victim, and yet they do not have it; some individuals end up confessing out of pressure.
A recent study conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice showed that the bluff technique causes accused persons to confess (Kassim et al., 2010). In that study, participants were asked to complete a task on the computer. These participants were then falsely accused of violation of the law such as collaborating with a college to complete the task or causing the computer to malfunction. Sixty percent of the first group admitted that they had pressed a certain key that had been warned initially to avoid even though they had not; in the second group, 10 percent of participants falsely confessed that they pressed the forbidden key to study an observer (Kassim et al., 2010).
This evidence is an example of how an interrogator’s techniques can contribute to a false confession. The authors of this study note that those who falsely confess to committing a crime believe that their innocence will become apparent to others. Consequently, this causes them to compromise their Miranda right to an attorney and silence.
The due process of the person who has falsely confessed are significantly undermined following the provision of such confessions. False confessions that are as a result of coercion are common in cases that are politically instigated.
Example: Brown vs. Mississippi
In this case, which took place in 1936, in the United States, the Court found out that the defendants were forced to confess following the brutality that they were subjected to; they had not option, but confess and avoid further brutality (Bloomberg Law, 2013). Three Black tenants, Brown Ed, Arthur Ellington and Henry Shields, were sentenced to death. They were accused of killing a White farmer, Mr. Raymond Stewart. The judgment was based on the confessions provided by the accused African Americans. However, two years after their conviction, the court determined that their confessions were extracted out of physical violence.
Brown Ed, Arthur Ellington and Henry Shields were stripped naked and made to lie on their backs on chairs. Their backs were thereafter cut using a leather strap that had buckles. Their accusers made them understand that unless they confessed, the whipping would continue. They were asked to confess to every allegation leveled against them; they had to comply. Furthermore, the Brown Ed, Arthur Ellington and Henry Shields were warned by their accusers that if they changed their statements, the same brutality would be applied. The Supreme Court found out that the accused were denied the due process, and the sentence was canceled.
The role of Police Interrogations
Police have the task of interviewing accused persons in order to extract incriminating statements. During the interrogation process, police collect evidence from witnesses and victims through interviews. There are various techniques that are used in the interrogation process.
Reid technique is one example. It is commonly used in North America, but it is widely criticized because it leads to false confessions and cannot be applied across cultures. Suggestibility is another technique. It capitalizes on how willing accused people are ready to accept the suggestions of others. Other forms of interrogation techniques include deception and bluff technique.
During the interrogation process, interrogators must not impose pressure on the accused as a means of forcing them to confess rather, they should cross examine evidences from both the accused and witnesses before making conclusions. Interrogators must respect the rights of those accused because an individual is innocent until proven guilty.
The Role of psychologists during interrogations
Psychologists play a vital role during the interrogation process. At times, the accused might have or may develop psychological disorders, and psychologists play a key role in helping them think straight. In addition, psychologists are required to provide technical guidance in cases that involve psychological interpretations.
In summary, this paper has shown that false confessions take center stage when an individual admits they are guilty of a crime, and yet they are not responsible for that crime. Even in the current and advanced legal system, it is still a disturbing behavior that is challenging to detect. False confessions can be induced by the incompetency or mental disorder of an individual or through coercion. There are three types of false confessions: or mental disorder of an individual or through coercion. False confessions fall in three main types: voluntary false confession, complaint false confessions and internalized false confessions
A recent study conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice showed that a bluff technique causes accused persons to confess. Police have the task of interviewing accused persons in order to extract incriminating statements. During the interrogation process, police collect evidence from witnesses and victims through interviews. Psychologists play a vital role during the interrogation process. They can either help the accused to think straight or provide technical guidance in cases that involve psychological interpretations.
Bloomberg law (2103). Brown vs. Mississippi. Retrieved on 10 April 2014. http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/criminal-procedure/criminal-procedure-keyed-to- weinreb/the-privilege-against-self-incrimination/brown-v-mississippi/
Kassim, S. M. (2008). "False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications for Reform", Current Directions in Psychological Science 17 (4), 249.
Kassim, S.M. et al., (2010). Police-induced confessions, risk factors, and recommendations: Looking ahead. Law and Human Behavior, 34(1), 49-52.