What is a false confession?
“any confession or admission to a criminal act that the confessor did not commit” (Holmberg, 2012 p. 136)
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
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
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
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
What was the Lindbergh kidnapping?
- 1932: 20 month old Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped and killed
- Found 2 months later
- 200 people confessed
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
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
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
What confessor related factors are relevant to confessions?
- Mental health status
- Influence of narcotics
- Ignorance of the law
- Understanding of the situation
What interrogator related factors are relevant to confessions?
- Fear and experience of violence
- Coercion and trickery
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)