Friday Crime Vids – False Confessions

Posted: October 15, 2013 in Courts, Policing, Research
Tags: , , , , ,

I listened to a couple of fascinating stories this week on This American Life about false confessions. You’ve likely heard of this before, but it’s still hard to believe it actually happens.

 Image courtesy of Naypong /

Image courtesy of Naypong /

In one of the cases, it came to light that the suspect confessed mainly due to conscious and unconscious behaviors by the police, including feeding the suspect information, grilling her for hours on end, and then providing subtle cues to help her “remember” details about the crime that she never actually experienced in the first place.

According to the show’s summary:

Former DC police detective Jim Trainum tells reporter Saul Elbein about how his first murder investigation went horribly wrong. He and his colleagues pinned the crime on the wrong woman, and it took 10 years and a revisit to her videotaped confession to realize how much, unbeknownst to Jim at the time, he was one of the main orchestrators of the botched confession.

The woman referred to in that case was only a teenager at the time, which may have had something to do with her inability to stand up against the interrogators and their tactics.

The reasons behind why people falsely confess are not well understood, though, nor are there any solid numbers on how often this occurs. But, according to one article in Psychology Today:

…a review of one decade’s worth of murder cases in a single Illinois county found 247 instances in which the defendants’ self-incriminating statements were thrown out by the court or found by a jury to be insufficiently convincing for conviction.

This week’s vids feature stories about others, both children and adults, who falsely confessed to crimes that they actually had no part in committing.

National Geographic

One for Ten Films

CBS News

Have a safe weekend!

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