False Confessions: Counterintuitive, But They Happen


Of 80 exonerations through DNA evidence, nearly 54 percent of those wrongfully convicted had falsely confessed to murders they didn’t commit, according to the Innocence Project. That’s what happened to New York teen Jeffrey Deskovic, says the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “The idea of a false confession is counterintuitive,” Deskovic told the newspaper. “But now that it’s happened to me, I know that false confessions happen.”

Richard Leo, an expert on false confessions, has studied what goes wrong. “For people to say ‘I’d never give a false confession’ is naive,” he said. “They don’t understand the situational pressures” by police trained in wearing down suspects’ resistance, said Leo, a law professor at the University of San Francisco. “It’s high pressure, yelling in your face, threats and promises, and it can go on hours.”

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