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Police-induced confessions: an empirical analysis of their content and impact

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Confessions have a greater impact on juries than other types of evidence, sometimes in the face of contradictory evidence. Twenty false confessions were content-analyzed to determine the substance of false confessions and perhaps help to explain why judges, juries, and others are prone to believe these statements. Our analysis indicated that most false confessions contained references to specific visual and auditory details concerning the crime and victim(s) as well as references to the confessor's thoughts, feelings, and motives during and after committing the crime. In a second study, mock jurors read confessions that were varied in terms of the presence of crime details, motive statements, and apologies, to determine the impact of these common aspects of confessions on a mock jury. Although a simple admission of guilt was often sufficient for conviction, more elaborate narrative confessions in which the defendant recounted how and why he committed the crime further increased confidence in these guilty verdicts.
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Keywords: confession; content analysis; false confession; juries; juror decision making

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology,John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York,NY, USA 2: Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law,University of Florida, Gainesville,FL, USA

Publication date: 2013-02-01

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