The science behind a false confession

Why would someone ever make a false confession? It’s more common than you think.

A False confession may seem like a rare occurrence. Do you think someone would confess to a crime that they did not commit?

If you are inclined to say no, keep reading.  All too often people are subjected to police interviews or interrogations in cases where they have truly done nothing wrong and have not committed any crime.

These folks agree to talk to the police because they know and believe that they have nothing to hide, so they think ‘what is the harm in talking to the police?’.  But this can be a fatal mistake. Innocent people, subjected to lengthy police interrogations do admit to acts that they did not do. The innocence project notes that 1 out of 4 people wrongfully convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement.  There are many reasons for this.  A police interrogation, (sometimes euphemistically called an “interview”), can be a psychologically coercive and isolating event in which the will of the person being questioned is worn down, sometimes with threats, promises, false statements and other forms of deception.

There are many documented cases of bad police interrogations leading to false confessions. Some people spend many years in jail as a result, while a few manage to prove that they were innocent in spite of saying otherwise. For an example of a bad interrogation, and one which I was able to establish as false, is demonstrated on WBUR’s Anatomy of a Bad Confession.

Credit: WBUR Anatomy of a Bad Confession: Worcester Police Sgt. Kevin Pageau, right, and Detective John Doherty, left, interrogate Nga Truong, 16, following the 2008 death of her baby boy. (WBUR screenshot)

Avoid a False Confession by Knowing Your Rights and Contacting a Lawyer Immediately

You must ask for and obtain the advice of an attorney before any interview or interrogation occurs, and you must make sure the police videotape that interview or interrogation in its entirety.  Do not answer questions without these important safeguards and do not be too intimidated to ask.  Do not think because you are innocent of any wrongdoing that there is no need for these important and constitutional safeguards.  The police may not tell you that you have a right NOT to talk to them.  The police may not tell you that the interview may be video or audio taped.  If you ask for a lawyer they may and often do suggest – “oh you must be guilty if you’re asking for a lawyer.”  Do not be fooled or intimidated.  When in doubt, do not talk or answer questions and seek the advice of a lawyer no matter whether the crime or action involved are serious or not.

O’Connor and Ryan can help you if you’ve been charged with a crime, and we have a strong history of ensuring our clients are granted the rights they deserve- contact us today.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *