When a resident of California confesses to a crime, many assume that is the end of the case and that guilt has been determined. What some do not understand is that it is not uncommon for someone to confess to a crime they did not commit. Until you have been in that situation with the same panic and stress that comes from something terrifying, you may not understand why someone would offer their innocence for safety.
Science Magazine tells a story of a 16-year-old who confessed to killing his mother because he was interrogated immediately after finding her body. He was in shock and claims he was cajoled and threatened by police until he admitted to the crime. He was released on parole after serving 20 years in prison, but the stigma followed him even then.
Attorneys approached an expert who said that more than 25% of those who have been exonerated over the last 25 years have confessed to the crime even though they were innocent. Younger people are particularly vulnerable to false confession when they are traumatized, tired or stressed.
One reason people may falsely confess to a crime is the methods that law enforcement officials use to interrogate. Questioning starts low and then amps up to insistent, repeated questioning. Many officers then turn to understanding and sympathy to soften the effects of confessing to a crime. Accusatory questioning can also lead to a false confession as can lack of education, limited mental capacity, stress, hunger or just a desperate desire to get out of the situation. Many even believe that the punishment will be less severe if they confess than if they stay in questioning.
If you are ever arrested of accused of committing a crime, it is important to know your rights. You have the right to say nothing and consult a criminal defense attorney immediately.
This is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.