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Interrogations and Confessions In The Central Park Jogger Case

Updated on March 4, 2015

You've researched the phenomenon of false confessions and, in doing so, have also studied interrogation methods that are less likely to elicit false confessions.
Consider the merits of the interrogation techniques you've researched and read about, including the Reid technique.

  • What do you think the risk-to-benefit ratio is regarding interrogation techniques more commonly associated with false confessions? Do you think they're also more likely to get legitimate confessions, or do you think they shouldn't be employed in interrogations?
  • What expertise can a forensic psychologists offer law enforcement during interrogations? What about after suspects confess?

I found this week’s reading to be interesting; I had no idea that so many false confessions were made because of police interrogation strategies. I think that the risk-to-benefit ratio regarding interrogation techniques more commonly associated with false confessions would be 50:50. The risk would be increased in interrogations where the suspect is particularly vulnerable to suggestions; a person could be vulnerable to suggestions because of youth, mental illness, sleep deprivation, drug use, and/or alcoholism. A forensic psychologist could be brought in to witness and offer their expertise. A forensic psychologist could offer assistance with ensuring that those vulnerable to suggestions are not coerced into a false confession due to officers not understanding the psychological effects that their normal interrogation techniques could have on such people. After the suspect confesses a forensic psychologist could be brought in to provide a psychological evaluation of the suspect to ensure that the person did not confess because of mental illness (Follette, Davis, & Leo, 2007). There have been cases of people confessing to crimes because they have a mental illness, i.e. schizophrenia. Some of these people hear voices that force them to confess whether they committed said crime or not (Follette, Davis, & Leo, 2007). A forensic psychologist could ensure that the confession was not coerced due to the suspect’s mental illness (Follette, Davis, & Leo, 2007).

I personally feel that the interrogation techniques more commonly associated with false confessions can also contribute to legitimate confessions, but I feel these methods should be used sparingly. The suspect’s mental health should be investigated prior to these methods of interrogations being employed. These types of techniques should not be utilized in interrogations involving minors due to the vulnerability of youth which can lead to false confessions. It would be best if these interrogation techniques were only used in scenarios where the police officers have at least some hard evidence linking the suspect to the crime to avoid false confessions.

References

Costanzo, M., & Krauss, D. (2012). Forensic and legal psychology: Psychological science applied to law. New York, NY: Worth.

Follette, W., Davis, D., & Leo, R. (2007). Mental Health Status and Vulnerability to Police Interrogation Tactics. Criminal Justice, 22(2), 1-8.

A chief goal of police officers is to obtain a confession from a suspected criminal. It is estimated that self-incriminating statements are obtained from about 68% of suspects interrogated by police. Confessions save time and money, and they are almost certain to result in a conviction, since they are the most powerful type of evidence in jury verdicts. In some cases, there is political pressure on a public prosecutor or police department to come up with a suspect who can be convicted. Prior to the 1930s, suspects were essentially tortured. The “Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement” led to legislation banning such processes. In practice, however, the ban simply led interrogators to switch to forms of physical abuse that would leave no marks on suspects. Recently, psychological forms of abuse have become more commonplace. If a confession is deemed to have been forced or coerced, the confession is inadmissible. The term coercion is, however, not well-defined legally, and police can routinely lie to suspects about evidence (e.g., eyewitnesses or fingerprints) that they actually do not possess—this is not illegal in most states. But suspects are not without legal protection. Since 1966, they must be read their Miranda rights before being interrogated. Many of you have seen these Miranda rights read to suspects on TV cop dramas. One of the most extreme examples of false confessions is the Central Park Jogger case, where a small group of minority youth admitted to interrogators that they gang-raped a young female jogger in Central Park. The real rapist was eventually found, and the boys were released, but only after a substantial period of incarceration. False confessions have been implicated in 25 percent of wrongful convictions. They are especially likely to occur in cases involving very serious crimes. Certain classes of individuals are particularly vulnerable to giving coerced false confessions. These include:  Suspects with a low IQ or developmental disabilities  Suspects who tend toward strong desires to comply  Suspects who are highly suggestible or sleep deprived.  Young suspects (this single trait is one of the strongest of factors implicated in false confessions) There are four categories of false confessions: 1. instrumental (to achieve a goal) 2. authentic (the suspect believes in his/her own guilt) 3. coerced 4. voluntary

Reference

Costanzo, M., & Krauss, D. (2012). Forensic and legal psychology: Psychological science applied to law. New York, NY: Worth.

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    • Karine Gordineer profile image

      Karine Gordineer 

      3 years ago from Upstate New York

      Very interesting Hub. I'm very familiar with that case. I remember when it happened it was so horrifying. I had no idea those boys didn't do it.

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