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Confessions and Denials When Guilty and Innocent: Forensic Patients' Self-Reported Behavior During Police Interviews


Volbert, Renate; May, Lennart; Hausam, Joscha; Lau, Steffen (2019). Confessions and Denials When Guilty and Innocent: Forensic Patients' Self-Reported Behavior During Police Interviews. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10:168.

Abstract

Several self-report studies together with analyses of exoneration cases suggest that suspects with mental disorder are especially prone to making false confessions. The present study asked 153 forensic patients in Germany about their behavior during suspect interviewing by the police. Self-reported ground truth of guilt and innocence was asked for, thereby taking into account that the risk of false confession is present only if a person has ever been interviewed when innocent. Indeed, surveying samples that include suspects who have never been interviewed when innocent may lead to underestimating the risk of false confessions. In the present study, all patients reported having been interviewed previously when guilty; and almost two-thirds (62%, n = 95), that they had also been interviewed at least once when innocent. These participants stated that they remained silent while being interviewed significantly more often when guilty (44%) compared to when innocent (15%). This corroborates laboratory research findings indicating that the right to remain silent is waived more often by innocent than by guilty suspects. Out of all 95 participants who were ever interviewed when innocent, 25% reported having made a false confession on at least one occasion. This result is in line with previous international research showing a high percentage of false confessions among suspects with mental disorder.

Abstract

Several self-report studies together with analyses of exoneration cases suggest that suspects with mental disorder are especially prone to making false confessions. The present study asked 153 forensic patients in Germany about their behavior during suspect interviewing by the police. Self-reported ground truth of guilt and innocence was asked for, thereby taking into account that the risk of false confession is present only if a person has ever been interviewed when innocent. Indeed, surveying samples that include suspects who have never been interviewed when innocent may lead to underestimating the risk of false confessions. In the present study, all patients reported having been interviewed previously when guilty; and almost two-thirds (62%, n = 95), that they had also been interviewed at least once when innocent. These participants stated that they remained silent while being interviewed significantly more often when guilty (44%) compared to when innocent (15%). This corroborates laboratory research findings indicating that the right to remain silent is waived more often by innocent than by guilty suspects. Out of all 95 participants who were ever interviewed when innocent, 25% reported having made a false confession on at least one occasion. This result is in line with previous international research showing a high percentage of false confessions among suspects with mental disorder.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Psychiatry and Mental health
Language:English
Date:29 March 2019
Deposited On:12 Feb 2020 11:02
Last Modified:22 Apr 2020 22:56
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1664-0640
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00168

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