By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blog
Ava DuVernay's Netflix series, When They See Us shines light on the vulnerability of young people in police interrogation rooms by walking us through the stories of the five young men who were wrongfully convicted after --hours into an interrogation during which they had been denied sleep and food--- they falsely confessed to a crime they did not commit.
According to Anne Marie Moyes, Director of the Korey Wise Innocence Project in Boulder, "28% of the DNA exonerations nationwide involved false confessions."
Of that group of wrongful convictions involving false confessions:
See also: The Colorado Connection to When They See Us
Why would anyone make a false confession, though? According to Saul Kassin, distinguished professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, innocent people who are vulnerable can internalize false confessions.
When you hear the wrongfully convicted talk about why they waived their rights saying they figured they would eventually be protected by the fact that they are, indeed, innocent. Innocent people sometimes confess under hours of interrogation, however because they are lead to believe additional evidence is on it's way and lead to believe they need to cooperate because additional information will be disclosed. He says people making false confessions saying things like, "I guess I did it" and then start to provide details handed to them during the interrogation.
Although there are many techniques for interrogation Kassin says the goal of American style interrogation is an accusation of guilt and a refusal to accept denials. Kassin also points out that false confession case interrogations tend to last longer because the interrogators make it more stressful to deny than to confess. Subjects feel overwhelmed and are looking for an expedient way out.
To read the transcript of the discussion or listen to the audio of the interview during which he discusses Korey Wise's false confession, visit the post on their Speaking of Psychology website. He believes raising awareness is an important part of helping to reform a broken system.
There is no shortage of compelling private investigator movies and books available, however, When They See Us, may have more timely, relevant and important insights to offer people who regularly conduct police interviews and work on legal investigation cases. It is, perhaps a movie that should be seen by all Americans. Those in as well as outside of the private investigator and security industry.
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