A Perfect False Confession

David Ashenfelter recently wrote a piece on the Mark Craighead case. Three volunteers from PI have been working on the case which is spearheaded by the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

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Most of the people commenting on the story could see right through it and didn't question Craighead's innocence. But of those who did, the thing that gave them the most difficulty was the fact that Craighead "confessed". They find it literally unbelievable that an innocent person would sign a false confession.

I used to believe that because it is so obvious . . . until one looks at the data. With the establishment of an unquestionable database of wrongfully convicted people (established by irrefutable DNA evidence), we find that 30% and up of these cases include a false confession. 30% or nearly 1 out of 3 is a HUGE number for something our common sense says can't happen!

Then when we begin to look at the dirty details of a case, things like threatening a person with a life sentence,"but if you sign this confession for manslaughter, you can get out in 8", one can see how even innocent people begin to consider the odds. And one of the problems is that the detectives can make the odds sound 100 times worse than they really are. Do you know that lying to a suspect, trying to force his hand (because presumably you believe he is guilty), is a well accepted practice? They do this because 1) there are no negative repercussions for a detective or prosecutor to lie to a suspect, 2) they know that if they say the right things under the right conditions they can get almost anyone to confess (especially those who trust the police or with less than average intelligence), and 3) the general public finds it unbelievable that someone would make a false confession.

With those three facts in mind, you had better believe this happens more often than anyone can believe!

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