Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Part Two: Why false confessions found in so many cases where people were cleared by DNA: Fascinating responses to article on false confessions featured in Part One. (Psychologist Dr. Karen Franklin and others);

PUBLISHERS NOTE: The article on false confessions by Keene and Handrich at the link posted below makes the disturbing observation that judges, defence lawyers and prosecutors and police officers  bear responsibility for the all too many cases where people later cleared conclusively by DNA where convicted as a result of their false confessions.  I highly recommend that our readers the responses to the article by four highly experienced commentators on America's criminal justice system. (The full responses are found at the link below following the article's table of references). Harold Levy.
Saul Kassin is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Several years ago, Kassin pioneered the scientific study of false confessions, research for which he received a presidential award from the American Psychological Association. Currently funded by the National Science Foundation, he is senior author of a 2010 White Paper entitled “Police-Induced Confessions: Risk Factors and Recommendations.”

"To the average person, false confessions are indeed a mystery.  In laboratories and field settings, however, and informed by case files from wrongful convictions, psychologists and other researchers have begun to demystify the phenomenon.  With help from Keene, Handrich, and others, what we have learned will become matters of public knowledge.  With this knowledge, I believe, will come justice."

 Walter Katz served for seventeen years as a criminal defense attorney in Southern California first at the San Diego Public Defender and then the Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender. He left the defense practice in late 2010 to join the Office of Independent Review which manages the oversight and monitoring of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and other agencies and has also taught courses in the use of technology and persuasion in the courtroom.

"It is important for the trial practitioner to understand how the investigator was trained to interrogate a suspect. It is essential to know the techniques taught by John E. Reid and Associates. The company conducts training seminars, provides expert testimony and publishes materials that are the foundation of police interrogations across the country.  Their text book Criminal Interrogations and Confessions by Inbau, Reid, Buckley and Jayne is an absolute must-read as it lays out in stark detail the hows and whys of police interrogations and is forged in the belief there is a “behavioral model of the truthful individual versus the subject who is withholding or fabricating relevant information.” If the defense attorney is engaged in a serious case, like a murder trial, it is highly likely that the detectives were trained in the Reid method or at least have read their materials. While Criminal Interrogations and Confessions spends some time on the notion of false confessions, it treats them largely as a fabricated defense because it views its trained interrogators as having the penetrative insight to distinguish a “good” confession from a “bad” confession. The challenge, of course, is for the defense attorney to try to weigh the claim that a confession is false before embarking on pulling together all the necessary tools to challenge the reliability of the confession at trial."

Karen Franklin, PhD is an award-winning forensic psychologist in Northern California and an instructor at Alliant International University in San Francisco. She blogs about forensic psychology topics at

"Besides coercive police techniques, the other central element in many false confessions is individual vulnerability, as well summarized here. Indeed, a long line of case law admonishes courts to consider not only an individual's vulnerabilities, but also the specific circumstances of the interrogation, and the interaction between the two (e.g., Crane v. Kentucky, 1986). Thus, as opposed to purely theoretical evidence, courts are even more inclined to allow clinical testimony connecting a confession with the person's individual vulnerabilities."

 Larry Barksdale, MA is an Assistant Professor of Practice Forensic Science at the University of Nebraska and owner of LEB Investigations. He has four decades of experience in various law enforcement roles, including case manager, police officer, law enforcement instructor, supervising technical teams at crime scenes, and working as a crime scene analyst.

 I totally agree with the authors, Douglas L. Keene and Rita R. Handrich, that people confess to crimes when they did not commit the crime. I accept the reasons put forth as valid explanations of what leads to people confessing to crimes when they did not do the crime. I concur that withholding information that would tend to disprove the validity of a confession is a miscarriage of justice. Inflicting physical pain, deception, psychological abuse, and other acts that fall outside the legal definition as acceptable interview and interrogation behavior have no place in the behavior of the civil police. I wholeheartedly support review, supervision, and punitive personnel actions for law enforcement personnel who violate the rules.


I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.