Why Do People Confess To Crimes They Didn’t Commit?

confession101011_1_560We know that eyewitness testimony can frequently be flawed, but what about confessions? False confessions of crimes are far more common than one might think, and there are an assortment of reasons why people admit to crimes they didn’t commit — what takes place in those police interrogation rooms is often very strange. New York Magazine investigates:

In the criminal-justice system, nothing is more powerful than a confession. Decades of research on jury verdicts has demonstrated that no other form of evidence—not eyewitnesses, not a video record of the crime, not even DNA—is as convincing to a jury as a defendant who says “I did it.” The police, of course, understand the power of confessions and rely on interrogation techniques to produce them quickly so they can clear their cases.

In recent years, the use of DNA evidence has allowed experts to identify false confessions in unprecedented and disturbing numbers. In the past two decades, researchers have documented some 250 instances of false confessions, many resulting in life sentences and at least four in wrongful executions. Of the 259 DNA exonerations tracked by a major advocacy group, 63 of them—or one out of every four—was found to have involved a false confession. Counting just the homicide cases, the proportion shoots up to 58 percent of all exonerations.

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  • Andrew

    Of course none of the people tortured in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo provided false confessions. The cops might do bad things sometimes but the military and intelligence communities, being of the divine and holy sectors of the government, don’t err.

  • Andrew

    Of course none of the people tortured in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo provided false confessions. The cops might do bad things sometimes but the military and intelligence communities, being of the divine and holy sectors of the government, don’t err.

  • Alech

    This piece seems to treat DNA evidence as infallible.

  • Alech

    This piece seems to treat DNA evidence as infallible.

  • Earbudcontender

    I did it!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4K3KM67XITZTXUE45K42KS4OEE brian

      No you didn’t…..you liar! 

  • Earbudcontender

    I did it!

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Because a life sentence for everything the DA throws at you while your court provided defense attorney is counseling you to work with them is scarier than confessing to a lesser crime that you still didn’t do. It doesn’t always take physical torture…people can be manipulated emotionally under duress without ever bruising them…and I’ve known people who agreed to take a hit for half a year or a few years with a good chance at parole in 18 months rather than fight the system and risk a 15 year sentence.

    All our nations legal problems can be summed up in the following words: Guilt or innocence are irrelevant.

    • Hadrian999

      that’s the problem, conviction rates and getting arrests are far more important to our justice system than actually seeing justice done.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Because a life sentence for everything the DA throws at you while your court provided defense attorney is counseling you to work with them is scarier than confessing to a lesser crime that you still didn’t do. It doesn’t always take physical torture…people can be manipulated emotionally under duress without ever bruising them…and I’ve known people who agreed to take a hit for half a year or a few years with a good chance at parole in 18 months rather than fight the system and risk a 15 year sentence.

    All our nations legal problems can be summed up in the following words: Guilt or innocence are irrelevant.

  • Hadrian999

    that’s the problem, conviction rates and getting arrests are far more important to our justice system than actually seeing justice done.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4K3KM67XITZTXUE45K42KS4OEE brian

    No you didn’t…..you liar!