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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2018 Mar;46(1):34-44.

Revisiting the False Confession Problem.

Author information

1
Dr. Alvarez-Toro is a Resident in the University of Maryland/Sheppard Pratt Psychiatry Residency Program, Baltimore, MD. Mr. Lopez-Morales is a Trial Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC. A version of this paper was presented at the 46th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, October 22-25, 2015, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. vmalvareztoro@gmail.com.
2
Dr. Alvarez-Toro is a Resident in the University of Maryland/Sheppard Pratt Psychiatry Residency Program, Baltimore, MD. Mr. Lopez-Morales is a Trial Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC. A version of this paper was presented at the 46th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, October 22-25, 2015, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Abstract

Despite the existence of important safeguards in our criminal legal system, innocent suspects often succumb to forceful and deceptive interrogation techniques. Among those over-represented members of the false confessor population are minors, people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, and those with psychiatric disorders. Some of the confessions made by these at-risk populations can hardly be considered voluntary or reliable, but they are generally admitted at trial, regardless of their prejudicial effect. Forensic psychiatrists should become more involved in the overall process of evaluating confessions, not only testifying in courts, but also assisting policymakers in reforming the interrogation process and influencing the legal process. Thus, forensic psychiatrists may give their expert opinion by providing proper training to police interrogators and examining videotaped interrogations. In addition, forensic experts can be instrumental in contributing to three legal solutions that we propose to the false confession problem: a constitutional approach, an evidence law approach, and a jury instruction approach. Each of these approaches requires forensic psychiatrists to help judges and jurors understand the coercive nature of the interrogation process and its effect on suspects' behavior.

PMID:
29618534

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