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False Confessions in the US Criminal Justice System


False confessions present a major issue in any criminal justice system. The situation becomes even more complicated when the system is so decentralized as in the USA. In every state, police traditionally rely on psychological pressure as a leading interrogation technique. Suspects suffer from innumerable threats, hours of sleep deprivation, and ceaseless questions. Even an innocent person can confess only to stop the torture. The need for modernization and reformation of the interrogation process is obvious taking into account the great number of convictions due to false confessions. The purpose of this research paper is to analyze a video called the Confessions about four false confessions and to prove the need for change in the US criminal justice system.

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In Confessions, the producer Ofra Bikel gives an overview of a particular case of murder. A sailor finds his wife raped and killed. The forensic evidence shows that one person has committed the crime. Nevertheless, the police charge eight men for the murder forcing five of them to confess guilty. All suspects tell about enormous psychological pressure induced on them during the interrogation.

Psychologically manipulative methods of interrogation are universally adopted in all police departments of the US. They are highly effective in dealing with vulnerable people and supposedly less harmful than physical coercion. Nonetheless, they lead to a great number of false confessions. Even innocent suspects break under the ceaseless pressure of interrogation when opposed to threats and constant intimidation. A quarter of all registered wrongful convictions is connected with false confessions (Costanzo et al. 2014).

The main reason for this situation is a presumption of guilt that underlines all courses of an interrogation. In the majority of cases, police detectives focus on accusing the suspects of the crime. All questions during the interrogation are aimed to prove the already made presumptions. Police detectives present the guilt of the suspect as a proven fact even if it contradicts all evidence.

The plot of Confessions clearly shows how highly effective interrogation techniques can make innocent people confess to a crime. In the course of the investigation, police detectives made a false assumption accusing Danial Williams of rape and murder. After nearly a dozen hours of interrogation, they forced him to confess. Then the forensic evidence showed inconsistencies in the police assumptions. After another interrogation, detectives made Danial correct his evidence.

DNA test results showed that Williams could not be the rapist. The police did not let him go but began a series of interrogations with seven other suspects. As a result, four innocent men had been forced to confess to the crime before the real rapist gave his evidence. To hide their mistake, the police detectives made up a theory about gang rape and murder. They threatened the suspects with the death penalty and put four men in jail for more than a decade. What is even more important is that the people obtained the reputation of rapists and murderers.

The aforementioned story proves the need for modernization and reformation of the interrogation process. It is seen that powerful psychologically manipulative methods can force people to confess even if they are not guilty. Therefore, it is of great importance to teach future police detectives to use these methods wisely and cautiously. Moreover, Confessions demonstrates a prominent example of police abuse. The whole interrogation process should be controlled and monitored. Leo claims that one of the most important reforms is “mandatory full electronic recording of all police interviews and interrogations” (2).

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The next major issue of the criminal justice system of the US is accusatory interrogation. In many cases, police detectives try to prove their presumptions rather than discover the truth. As a result, the investigation develops only in one direction to provide evidence to the guilt of the suspect. According to Kelly and Meissner, “hallmarks of the accusatorial model include establishing control over the suspect, using closed-ended questions that confirm what the interrogator already believes to be true.” It is crucial to restructure the whole communication between parts to reduce confrontation and maximize the information gathering. The evidence of the suspect must be evaluated according to the facts and not to the presumptions of the police detective.

The authors of the video also question the right of the police officers to arrest and intimidate anyone they suspect of the crime. In the process of the investigation, the police accuse four men of a crime without any particular evidence. It seems like the sole purpose of the interrogations is to obtain as many confessions as possible no matter how credible they are. Historically, a confession from the suspect serves as the ultimate evidence of his or her guilt. According to Braswell et al., “failure to obtain a confession from the accused is seen as a serious deficiency in the prosecution’s case” (74). Therefore, many detectives try to force any suspect they have to agree with their accusations.


The criminal justice system of the US needs modernization and reformation. In the Confessions video, the authors showed prominent examples of police abuse made possible by accusative interrogation techniques. All communications between the detectives and the suspects should be duly recorded to reduce the possibility of false confessions. New police officers should learn to use psychologically manipulative methods of interrogation cautiously and wisely. The possibility of the police arresting people and accusing them without evidence should be limited. Only after a thorough investigation, the confession of the suspect can be accepted to eliminate wrongful convictions. The reformation of the criminal justice system cannot be done quickly, but it is possible and needed to be accomplished.

Works Cited

Braswell, Michael C., et al. Justice, Crime, and Ethics. Routledge, 2014.

Costanzo, Mark A., and Marina L. Costanzo. “False Confessions and Police Interrogation.” Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Springer New York, 2014, pp. 1547-1555.

Kelly, Christopher E., and Christian A. Meissner. “Interrogation and Investigative Interviewing in the United States: Research and Practice.” Bepress, 2014. Web.

Leo, Richard A. “Police Interrogation and Suspect Confessions: Social Science, Law and Public Policy.” SSRN, 2017. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 5). False Confessions in the US Criminal Justice System.

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"False Confessions in the US Criminal Justice System." StudyCorgi, 5 Jan. 2022,

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'False Confessions in the US Criminal Justice System'. 5 January.

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