False Confessions

  1. What is a false confession?
    “any confession or admission to a criminal act that the confessor did not commit” (Holmberg, 2012 p. 136)
  2. What was the Central Park jogger case?
    • 1989, white female jogger is attacked and raped in Central Park 
    • Lost 3/4 of blood and suffered multiple other injuries 
    • Survived but had no memory of the attack 
    • 2 days later, 5 African American and Hispanic boys aged 14-16 had confessed 
    • Only had films of the confessions (not interviews) to go on and no forensic evidence linking them 
    • Retracted their confessions and claimed they were under police duress but received the longest juvenile sentence possible 
    • 2002 the actual rapist came forward and forensics linked him 
    • Upon being freed the 5 said they confessed because they thought it would mean they could go home, call someone or otherwise leave what was an unpleasant situation
  3. How common are false confessions?
    • Estimated to be 20% of convictions 
    • 15/70 (Scheck et al, 2000)
    • 12% for Icelandic prisoners (Sigurdsson & Gudjonsson, 1996)
    • These could occur to protect others, stop police coercion and force or to avoid detention
  4. How have false confessions been studied?
    • P's asked to type a list of words and to not press the ALT key 
    • The computer crashed after 60 seconds and P's were accused of pressing the key
    • All initially denied the allegation 
    • A confession form was produced and p's were invited to sign it 
    • Another confederate claimed to have heard the commotion and asked what had happened to the P
    • Brought back into the room, read collated details of what happened and asked to tell their side of the story 
    • 69% signed the confession
    • 28% told the other researcher they pressed the ALT key 
    • 9% created the illusory facts created by the experimenter to fit the story 
    • When there was said to be a witness a sizeable number confessed
  5. What is a voluntary false confession?
    • Gudjonsson (2003)
    • The confession is volunteered by the suspect without any coercion from the investigator 
    • Might be trying to shield the real culprit 
    • Might want fame 
    • Might have a psychotic mental illness and confuse fantasy with reality
  6. What was the Lindbergh kidnapping?
    • 1932: 20 month old Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped and killed
    • Found 2 months later 
    • 200 people confessed
  7. What is a coerced or compliant false confession?
    • A false confession due to coercion and pressure from the police offered to appease the investigator with knowledge that it is false 
    • Used to escape an unpleasant situation in the hopes of receiving some gain
  8. Who were the Guildford four?
    • 1975: Guildford pub bombed by the IRA
    • 4 men falsely confessed under intense police coercion 
    • All charges dropped by 1991
  9. What was the Paul Ingram case?
    • American republican party chairman in Washington 
    • Accused of raping his daughter, sexually abusing his son, murdering babies and satanic cult crimes 
    • Interrogated for 5 months rigorously, hypnotised and given many details about the crimes with police psychologists telling him how offenders often repress the memories of crime
    • Eventually he 'recalled' his crimes despite no physical evidence
    • Richard Ofshe argued that he had been brainwashed and got him to confess to a phoney crime using the same techniques about making his kids commit incest
    • Despite this, he still served all 20 years
  10. What confessor related factors are relevant to confessions?
    • Mental health status 
    • Influence of narcotics 
    • Ignorance of the law
    • Understanding of the situation
  11. What interrogator related factors are relevant to confessions?
    • Fear and experience of violence 
    • Coercion and trickery
  12. Who were the West Memphis 3?
    • 1993: 3 eight year old boys were killed and their naked bodies were found in the creek a day later
    • Post mortem examination mistook animal predation with castration 
    • 3 suspects (all under 18)
    • One interviewed for over a month 
    • One with low IQ interviewed for only 12 hours (only 46 minutes recorded)
    • Gave inconsistent testimony and sentenced to 40 years for first and second degree murder 
    • One other given death sentence after giving up media available info on crime 
    • The other was given life 
    • Later forensic evidence exonerated the three despite confessions (and 18 years in prison)
Card Set
False Confessions