True Stories of False Confessions

True Stories of False Confessions - Rob Warden, Steven A. Drizin I read this book on the heels of a conversation that started with “Why would anyone ever confess to a crime they did not commit?” It turns out the answer to that question is not an easy one. It comes in many various forms: from the obvious (police interrogators putting words into people’s mouths) to the ridiculous (being so frightened of the consequences it seems better to confess than face having to prove being innocent) to the horrific (persons of compromised mental faculty being questioned without understanding). To their credit Mr. Ward and Mr. Drizin do not shy away and include in this account the incomprehensible, especially in this day and age, subject of coerced confessions.

The most frightening thing about reading these accounts is the fact that often the authorities made up their mind about a suspect, coerced or cajoled a confession and then simply stopped looking for the real perpetrator despite overwhelming evidence that they had the wrong person. Although extracting false confessions is in no way a new phenomenon, this book includes examples from several centuries, one would think in this age of DNA testing and CSI expertise the science and forensics would be integral. Sadly, the authors also point out the often, in the interest of closure to a case, the science and forensics are overlooked, ignored or conveniently “lost”.

The one thing I take away from this book and “Justice Miscarried” is: even if only coming forth as a witness to or victim of a crime … lawyer up!