It’s a dirty little secret of the criminal justice system: People sometimes confess to crimes they didn’t commit.
While it may seem counterintuitive, the complexities of human psychology–coupled with police interrogation tactics– sometimes result in false confessions. According to a recent study by Brandon Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, more than 40 people gave confessions that were later proved to be false by DNA evidence. A recent article in the New York Times explores Professor Garrett’s study and it’s implications. It’s worth reading.
Those who have studied the issue almost uniformly conclude that the only way to guard against the danger of false confessions is to require the police to videotape their interrogations. That way, judges and juries will be able to see for themselves the circumstances of confessions and determine their reliability. Some jurisdictions have already passed laws requiring this. Florida, unfortunately, has not.
So, what do you think? Could you ever imagine confessing to something you didn’t do? Do you think this is a problem that needs to be addressed? Share your thoughts in the comments.