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
"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 forensicpsychologist.blogspot.com.
"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
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.
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:
My interest in forensic pathology began with my Toronto Star investigative reporting into once famed since disgraced former doctor Charles Smith. I began this Blog after retiring from the Star in 2006 in order to follow the aftermath into the independent Goudge inquiry into many of Smith's cases. I have now begun to focus on cases involving flawed forensic science no matter where they occur (the recent Amanda Knox prosecution in Italy, for example) and am fascinated by the interest in the Blog from people in countries throughout the world. In another development, my interest in "junk science" "pseudo-experts" and the miscarriages of justice they all too often cause has drawn me deeply into the on-going U.S. death penalty debate where so many troubling cases involve issues relating to DNA and other developments in the world of forensic science. For all of this I rely on my experience as a reporter at the Toronto Star, my work as a lawyer in Ontario's criminal courts, and my abhorrence of injustice. Please send cases and developments which may be of interest to this Blog to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read on! Harold Levy.