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February 19, 2009


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Marcella Chester

An additional group which should be covered whenever the dynamics of false confessions are discussed related to the criminal justice system are crime victims who are pressured into recanting and who are subsequently deemed to be guilty of filing a false police report.

One such case which occurred in Madison, Wisconsin is the subject of the book Cry Rape by Bill Lueders published by the UW Press. A woman was raped by a stranger and coerced by a police investigator into recanting. After fighting with the local police the DNA in her case was processed and her rapist was IDed and eventually convicted.


No doubt memory contamination induces irrational people to confess to crimes they did not commit. But I wonder if rational people falsely confess, too. For example, suppose John has been arrested for a murder he did not commit. The evidence supporting John’s culpability is convincing, and John knows this. He may therefore have a 50 percent chance of receiving the death penalty. If the prosecutor offers a plea bargain of, say, 15 years in prison, it may induce John to confess. Many rational people would prefer 15 years in prison to a 50 percent chance of being placed on death row. It would be interesting to regress a dummy confession variable on potential prison time and plea-bargained prison time to see if a correlation exists. Maybe someone has already done this...

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