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Perceptions of children during a police interrogation: Guilt, confessions, and interview fairness

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Jurors are often provided with confession evidence and must determine whether the confession was true, false, coerced, or voluntary. As more juveniles are tried in adult criminal court, jurors must increasingly make these determinations about minors' statements. In this study, mock jurors read an actual interrogation of a child suspect that included confession evidence, and then provided judgments regarding the coerciveness of the interrogation, the child's and police's knowledge and behaviors, and guilt. Child age (11 versus 14 years) and gender were manipulated and examined in relation to participant gender and pre-existing sympathy levels for juvenile offenders. Factors external to the suspect - participant gender and sympathy for juvenile offenders - interacted with child suspect factors to influence perceptions of the child, the interrogation, and guilt. When multiple factors were considered, perceptions of suspect credibility and police fairness were the strongest predictors of guilt and perceived culpability. The findings have implications for decision-making in cases involving juvenile defendants and confession evidence.

Keywords: child suspects; confessions; perceptions; police interrogation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Policy Research Associates, Inc., New York, Delmar, USA 2: Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, USA 3: Department of Psychology and Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, Davis, Davis, California, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2008


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