False Confessions More Prevalent Among Teens


False confessions have played a role in about 25% of DNA exoneration cases. In many cases, the false confessions were made by juveniles during interrogation. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, in the last 25 years, 38% of exonerations for crimes allegedly committed by youth under 18 years of age involved false confessions, compared with 11% for adults.



Wall Street Journal

reports that in a 2011 opinion on juvenile interrogation, the United States Supreme Court noted that research suggests that the risk of false confessions among youth is “‘more acute.’”

“Juveniles are particularly vulnerable: they tend to be impulsive, they tend to be more focused on short-term gratification like ‘If I confess, can I go home?’” said Steven Drizen of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, which is compiling the new database, called the National Registry of Exonerations, working with the University of Michigan Law School. “They tend to be more deferential to authority; that might not seem like it’s the case in the real world, but in the interrogation room it is.”

In response to the evidence of false confessions by youth that led to wrongful convictions, law enforcement agencies across the nation are trying to improve how juvenile interrogations are conducted. Recommendations introduced by the International Association of Chiefs of Police last year included recording interviews and avoiding long interrogations, deception, leading questions and promises of leniency. The electronic recording of interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions.


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How False Confessions Happen

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