Why would a person make a false confession to a crime?

False Confessions

In addition, interrogation techniques can sometimes lead to false confessions. One such case involved the "Central Park Five." After a lengthy interrogation, five teenagers confessed to raping and beating a jogger in New York's Central Park. All five later recanted their confessions and said that they had confessed because they believed they could go home if they did. Each of the five young men spent between six and 12 years in prison. DNA evidence eventually cleared them of wrongdoing after another man confessed to the crime in 2001.

Usually, false confessions during a police interrogation fall into one of two categories:

  • In a compliant confession, the suspect confesses for a reason. Investigators may have promised the suspect that they will be lenient if he confesses. On the other hand, he may have become so fatigued and upset by the interrogation process that he will do anything to end it.
  • In an internalized confession, the suspect begins to believe that he committed the crime. This can happen if the person is particularly susceptible to suggestion. It can also happen if the investigator repeats the same scenario so many times that the suspect begins to feel as though he remembers it.

A 2004 study of false confessions revealed that most people who make false confessions are young, developmentally disabled or mentally ill. Often, a jury will believe a confession even when physical evidence in the case suggests or proves that the defendant did not commit the crime. For these reasons, the interrogation techniques that can encourage false confessions are controversial.

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