False Confessions and the Integrity Unit


At a meeting yesterday of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ Criminal Justice Integrity Unit, Professor Richard Leo testified about how false confessions happen. Scott Henson recaps Leo’s testimony on his blog Grits for Breakfast and compares the common causes of false confessions with the facts in the ongoing “Yogurt Shop” case in Austin.

Leo insisted that police interrogation tactics are the primary cause of false confessions, but thinks that a secondary cause has to do with individual personality types. At risk individuals include juveniles, the mentally retarded, the mentally ill, people who are highly suggestible or compliant, or who have poor memory or high anxiety.

Most false confessors, he said, are "mentally normal" individuals, but those in a risk group are more likely to falsely confess.

There are three types of false confessors, said Leo: Voluntary, Compliant, and Persuaded. To use a current, local example, all three of these false confession types were in play in Austin's Yogurt Shop murders.

Read Henson’s full post here

. (Grits for Breakfast, 01/13/09)

We wrote about the “Yogurt Shop” case

in this space last week

, when the two incarcerated defendants in the case were in court for a hearing on DNA test results excluding them on evidence from the crime scene. Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott were convicted of killing four teenage girls in an Austin yogurt shop 17 years ago, and allegedly made admissions of guilt. They say their admissions were coerced by police officers. A final DNA test report is expected in the case this week.


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