False Confessions Summary

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Darius L. Brewer PY 434 Dr. Neushatz March 2, 2010 A Review of Kassin and Colleagues’ Studies on False Confessions In reviewing studies by Kassin and colleagues on the power of a confession, several weaknesses in the system are revealed. First, a study of the persuasiveness of a coerced confession revealed a tendency for jurors to vote guilty even though they were told the confession was involuntary. The same study also found that the actual jurors claimed to have ignored inadmissible confessions when in fact the confessions increased the likelihood of them voting guilty. Second, Kassin revealed the difficulty of distinguishing a true and a false confession. Even the investigators with training and years of experience demonstrated…show more content…
However, the first mistake made by the suspects who falsely confess is talking to the police. So how can someone be so easily influenced to speak when it is not necessary or in their best interest? The fact is, investigators go into in interrogation room with one goal in mind and that is to elicit a confession. As Kassin shows, with enough manipulation, even an innocent person may be lead to believe his or her own guilt. Sometimes even confabulating the information into one’s own memory. Interrogators can do this by presenting false evidence persuading a suspect to believe that it is their own memory which is failing them and not the criminal justice system. Similar techniques, such as the ones used against Michael Crowe during his interrogation of his sister's murder, make a suspect feel as though their own family believes his guilt. In the case of Michael Crowe's false confession, the suspect understood that the interrogators were the only ones trying to help him. After hours of being asked to describe a crime, Michael began to imagine the actual crime. Furthermore, he began to believe that he was the culprit, even describing the events of the crime from memory. As Kassin discusses, this technique is referred to as minimization. The interrogators can play off the fact that…show more content…
As Kassin investigated the judgment of jurors on several hypothetical situations, he and his colleagues found that the existence of a confession, even the involuntary ones, sways a jury to vote guilty more often than not. As we already know, individual memories are capable of being tampered with enough to allow a person to believe his or her own guilt. With this in mind, it is not a far stretch to comprehend that even a lie that is identified as a lie may still serve as an indicator of a certain degree of guilt. In other words, the idea, as false as it may be, is planted into the minds of jurors during a trial just as it is planted in the investigators minds before an interrogation. Even when prompted to disregard a false statement, the jury is still more likely to vote guilty after the involuntary confession is revealed. A lack of understanding of memory vulnerability will lead jurors and investigators to believe that one would never admit to committing a crime unless he or she is guilty. Furthermore, an overestimate of our own mental strength under pressure makes false confessions incomprehensible. Another way to look at the feelings of jurors towards erroneous confessions is to describe the mindset that may exist among jurors. The task itself is referred to as jury duty, and the jurors may get a sense of superiority over the suspect on

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