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Criminal Psychology
Chapter 11(b)
False Confessions
Talbot
Kellogg Community College
The Nature of False Confessions
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Confession – An admission of guilt.
False Confession – An admission of guilt by an innocent.
A Counterintuitive Human Behavior
Saul Kassin
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Perhaps the tip of the iceberg. (Some issues do not appear in the data)
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No numbers available on prevalence.
200 DNA exonerations for wrongful confessions
45% of those saying they falsely confessed are telling the truth.
12% of prisoners, 10% high school students, 3 – 4% of college students
admit to having falsely confessed to something.
Police and prosecutors reject some false confessions.
Plea bargains.
Juvenile courts.
15 minutes of fame issues
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Lindberg baby
How new is this?
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1692 Salem Witch Trials
Central Park Jogger Case
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Patricia Meili - 1989
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Location of physical evidence.
The presence of accomplices.
Other details of the crime or related crimes.
5 suspects caught and within 72 hours, all
had given detailed confessions. The teens-Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef
Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise
Additional information
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DNA was at the scene of the crime but did not
match any of the 5.
Matteus Reyes (2002): Confessed from prison of the
violent rape.
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Identified details of the crime which had not been released to
the public.
Preserved DNA matched his own.
He was in prison for raping 3 other women, and killing one
after the 1989 investigation of the rape had ended.
What does Psychology tell us?
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Milgram’s Obedience
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Studyhttp://learningat.ke7.org.uk/socialsciences/Psychology/PsyRes13/Milgram.htm
What breeds obedience?
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Emotional distance of the victim
Closeness and legitimacy of the authority
Institutional authority
The liberating effects of group influence
What does Psychology tell us?
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Milgram’s Obedience Study
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
What does Psychology tell us?
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Milgram’s Obedience Study
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Zimbardo’s Prison Study
Stanford Prison Study
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The issue of “Time”.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never limited
the amount of time for interrogations.
What does Psychology tell us?
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Milgram’s Obedience Study
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Zimbardo’s Prison Study
Loftus work on false memories
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Confessions become reality
The interview
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What gets someone interviewed?
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A belief of guilt.
How good are we at detecting deception?
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College Students
Polygrapher
Psychiatrists
Secret Service
52.82
55.67
57.61
64.12
Training to improve the accuracy of detecting
deception within the interview.
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Reid Technique
Kassin & Forge (1999)
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Condition
Laypeople
Reid Training Police
Detectives
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Accuracy
55%
46%
50%
Confidence
5.9
6.5
7.05
Reaction Time Tests
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Confess
Internalize
Confabulate
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Kassim & Kiechal
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No Witness
SLOW
FAST
35%
65%
0
12%
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Witness
SLOW
89%
44%
6%
FAST
100%
65%
35%
Case Study
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Marty Tankleff
17 years old
 The crime
 The interview
 Tactics
 Result
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CBS
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1990 – 50 years to life.
Other issues
Studies of Innocence
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Often waive their Miranda rights
More open and forthcoming
Give more plausible denials which trigger
harsher tactics
The Innocence – Confession paradox
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Bluff of DNA evidence.
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Innocents don’t confess!
2003 – Glen Harris, Peter Kent, Joseph
Creedon

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