Psychology Essay Paper on Reasons Why Innocent Defendants Give False Confessions

Reasons Why Innocent Defendants Give False Confessions

There are a number of instances during DNA police interrogations where innocent people have been forced to admit to crimes that they did not take part in. This has led to wrongful convictions and prison sentences. In this case, a major question arises about the factors that can compel an innocent defendant to give a false testimony that could bear serious consequences in their lives.

According to Innocence project (2011), one of the most common reasons for this false testimonies includes the coercion by authorities as shown in the case of 14-year-old Michael Crowe who testified that he had earlier given false testimony about murdering his younger sister. As indicated by Conti (1999), most of the wrongful convictions occur as a result of pressure and coercive questioning. It may be physical or psychological coercion. Most of these were obtained through brutality and violence, which involved the beating up of defendants as was the case of Brown v Mississippi (1936).

Therefore, as is shown by Lassiter and Meissner (2010), the major reasons why innocent people may feel compelled to offer false confessions during police interrogations include duress, coercion, acting under intoxication, reduced capacity, and the inappropriate state of mind as is the case of mental impairment and lack of knowledge regarding how the law operates. The other factors can be considered to be the fear of violence, the actual sense of having harmful elements inflicted on someone, being threatened by a harsh statement, and the entire misunderstanding of the situation.

It is apparent that a number of factors can lead to a false confession. They can either be intentional or not. For instance, testimonies that are received from juveniles are often not reliable while adults may do it for fear of being tortured (Innocence project, 2011).


Conti, P. Richard. (1999). The Psychology of False Confessions. The Journal of Credibility           Assessment and Witness Psychology, 2 (1), 14-36.

Innocence project. 2011. Understand the causes: false confessions.  

Lassiter, G. Daniel, & Meissner, A. Christian. (2010). Police interrogations and false         confessions: current research, practice, and policy recommendations. Washington, DC:  American Psychological Association.