GUARDING AGAINST FALSE CONFESSIONS

54 Am. Crim. L. Rev. Online 65

Destiny Howell* 

Many people, including people well versed in the criminal justice system, have a hard time understanding why a suspect would confess to a crime that they did not commit. False confessions occur more frequently than one might expect. Of the 1,900 false confessions in the National Registry of Exonerations, about 12% were caused by false confessions. Of the DNA exonerations in the United States, 28% involved false confessions. Many of these false confessions are a result of the Reid interrogation technique, which most police officers use. This piece argues that because Miranda rights are minimally effective at protecting against false confessions in the context of such a technique, state legislatures should take additional protective measures. Recording all interrogations and allowing experts to more freely testify about what causes false confessions would help to reduce the considerable damage of false confessions. According to Saul Kassin, an expert on false confessions, “[o]nce the confession is taken, it trumps everything else, it trumps DNA evidence, its effects cannot be reversed.”

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