Car SalesmanAfter last week’s blog on The Central Park Five, I wanted to follow up with why somebody would falsely confess to a heinous crime that they didn’t commit as the 5 boys did in that case.

Brandon L. Garrett, professor of law at the University of Virginia School of Law, studies criminal procedure, civil rights, and wrongful convictions. For his book, Convicting the Innocent, he found that 16 percent of the first 250 DNA exonerations, or 40 of the 250 cases, innocent defendants confessed to crimes they did not commit. He also noted “that additional DNA exonerees did not deliver confessions in custody, but they made incriminating statements or pleaded guilty to crimes they did not commit.”

Why would anybody falsely confess, I am frequently asked. The reasons are varied and complex and I can list them out for you very logically, but here are a few questions that you can ponder yourself, as I’d like for you to try to understand the reasons on a more personal level.

Did you  ever buy something from a salesperson that you later regretted like a car or a vacation time share? When you woke up on the next morning, did you regret making that big purchase?  The salesperson sold you on the decision to buy.  If you experienced buyer’s remorse, he or she moved you from not buying to buying? How did that happen?

Thinking back, you know you could have left the car dealership or free resort weekend any time you wanted, whereas the innocent person doesn’t usually feel like they can leave the police station,until they satisfy the authorities. You realize that a used-car salesman doesn’t carry the same weight as someone that carries a  badge, a lethal weapon and a set of handcuffs and is trained to get in your personal space.

You may have gotten a finely-tuned sales pitch or even high-pressure tactics that induced you to buy where the false confessor may be fed lies, deceit and trickery, sometimes in a windowless room with tape recorder or video camera pointed at them.

You see, the detectives are trying to sell a believable theme of how that innocent person did the crime. In this analogy then, “I can see you tooling down the road in that baby” is not really all that different from “We found your fingerprints at the scene”,

Both the salesperson and the detective are taught to overcome objections.  At some point, the salesperson may stop without making the sale, but some  police “interviews”  turn into interrogations and  may last for hours. Fatigue and hopelessness are factors in many false confessions.

In reality, why someone buys worthless Florida swamp land is not that much different from why someone falsely confesses to a murder, it just depends on who is the seller, what they are selling and the tactics they use.

Lastly, Steve Drizin, in his Huff Post: False Confessions: A Review of 2013 offered up some really dismal examples of justice delayed but did give credit where credit was due in one example.

“After FBI agents obtain a confession from Patrick Dubois to the murder of his two children in his home at a North Dakota Indian reservation, they continued to investigate and ultimately cleared Dubois, linking Valentino Bagola to the crime through DNA evidence and then later obtaining Bagola’s confession.” I’d like to hear more stories of how and why detectives kept looking after securing a false confession to find the real culprit.

What do you think about false confessions


Next week, I will have a tip for you about “That’s About It”.