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False Confessions in Sex Cases

Before I studied law or really thought through the following issue, I had a misinformed opinion regarding criminal confessions. If somebody confessed to the crime, then they surely did it! However, after years of being a criminal defense attorney and seeing multiple interrogation videos, I have changed my mind. Yes, some people confess because they did it. However, many people make false confessions due to police induced manipulation.

Recently, a paper came out regarding false confessions and specifically addressed the especial vulnerability of false confessions made by suspects in sexual abuse cases. According to the research paper, because sexual abuse suspects undergo such a sense of hopelessness, they are more prone to provide a false confession. This is caused by:

  • What the suspect feels is strong evidence, even if it isn't true
  • The suspect falls within a stereotype that looks bad for them in the allegations, such as priest or step-father
  • The suspect doesn't have proof that they are innocent 9rarely does any defendant have that as it's difficult to prove a negative in any situation)
  • Witnesses against them seem persuasive, even if their testimony is untrue

Sadly, police tactics often seize on hopelessness and use this to their advantage to draw out a confession.