According to the Innocence Project, one out of four people who were convicted but later exonerated due to DNA evidence had false confession used as evidence to incriminate them.
Why would these people have confessed to a crime they did not commit? Why would they go through a trial knowing their innocence? This is a hard concept to understand because nobody thinks they would confess if they were innocent. This gives the false confession more weight in the jury decision-making.
In this article, I will be talking about why people confess to false crimes and what changes could be made to prevent it. There are three types of false confessions: voluntary false confessions, compliant false confessions and internalized false confessions.
Voluntary confessions are given with the person's free will and there is no police prompting. This may happen when the suspect has a mental disorder, wants to gain fame, or is trying to protect a loved one. For example, 60 people confessed to the murder of Elizabeth Short.
Compliant false confessions are given if the suspect is feeling threatened, trying to avoid punishment or gain a reward. It can also be done by keeping the suspect in the interrogation room for hours, under a lot of pressure so that they confess just so the interrogation can come to an end.
For example, Jeffrey Mark Deskovic confessed to beating, raping and strangling a classmate after hours of interrogation and got 15 years of incarceration even though the DNA evidence pointed differently.
Out of all these, I think the internalized false confession is the most messed up.
In this, the person confessing comes to believe their confession and see themselves as criminals.
For example, in the case of Billy Wayne Coupe, he was interrogated for so long by police officers suggesting he may have committed the crime that he started believing he'd molested and killed his 12-year-old daughter, Amanda. He even made up the scenario in his head about how it happened with many gruesome details.
I believe there should be a recording of the interrogation where the officer and the suspect can both be seen by the camera. This will make sure that if there is any type of coercion, it will be recorded. The defense attorney can later use this to get justice for his/her client.
There should also be rules about how long an interrogation can be and the suspect should be fed. They shouldn't feel coerced to confess. It would not help with voluntary confessions, but I think the other two could be reduced.
The one thing to remember is if you are ever in a situation where you are taken in for an interrogation, make sure to contact a defense attorney first, even if you are innocent.