In August 2006, John Mark Karr confessed to the Dec. 26, 1996 murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. Some people hoped that Karr's confession would bring an end to the high-profile case, but others wondered whether it was accurate. On Aug. 28, 2006, news sources reported that Karr's DNA did not match the DNA found at the crime scene and that he wouldn't be charged. Why would a person confess to a crime he didn't commit?

False confessions are relatively common in high-profile criminal cases. For example, more than 200 people confessed to the 1932 kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's son. For this reason, law enforcement officials typically keep some of the details of high-profile investigations secret. If a confessor can describe these secret details, investigators can be more confident that the confession is true.

There are several reasons why a person might come forward to falsely confess to a high-profile crime. He may simply be mentally ill or want attention, fame or­ notoriety. He might feel guilty for past crimes or want to protect the real perpetrator. He might be unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality, or unable to comprehend the consequences of making a confession.