There are numerous accounts of people who were wrongly convicted and then exonerated once the facts become better established or more evidence emerged. Even though this is a good outcome for the convicted, the conviction should not have happened in the right place. Many people who have gone through this were convicted due to false confessions. Many people wonder how this happens, so we will be examining the role misclassification, coercion, and contamination play in these types of convictions.
Misclassification happens when a police officer decides, erroneously, that an innocent person is guilty of something. Misclassification is typically the first step on the road that leads to a false confession.
This is because once the police have their “suspect” they begin the process of pinning the crime on them. Any interviews, interactions, and interrogations that follow are guided by the presumption of guilt.
Because interrogations are such a critical point in the investigative process, any misclassification at this point taints the whole process. It follows, therefore, that if the police did not misclassify and interrogate innocent people, there would be no false confessions that lead to wrongful convictions.
Once misclassification happens and police are sure they have their suspect, they will often start their interrogations with an accusatory mindset. Getting a confession becomes the sole focus in cases where there is no reasonable chance of obtaining conviction evidence. It also becomes so in high-profile cases where detectives are under a lot of pressure to solve a crime and convict someone.
With these two situations in mind, you can understand why most coerced confessions and wrongful convictions happen in homicides and other high-profile cases.
Once the interrogation starts, the police can use coercive and psychologically manipulating tactics to get a confession. These can include minimization of the circumstances to get someone to bring their guard down, promises of leniency, silent interrogations, extreme fatigue, hunger, and exhaustion, and threats of stiffer punishments.
Many of these coercion techniques are not supposed to be used on suspects. If they are used on you, and you are wrongfully convicted, you should get in touch with a wrongful conviction lawyer as soon as possible. They will review all evidence, interrogation material, police conduct, and other circumstances of the case to not only get your conviction overturned but also to get you monetary compensation for your suffering.
Contamination happens once the police have their “confession”. It happens as police try to piece together the events surrounding the crime as well as an individual’s motives for committing it. Police will elicit, suggest, and even invent a suspect’s motives to make the confession fit the narrative they have.
They might also do it during the interrogation to make it seem like they are trying to minimize the suspect’s culpability. Once the suspect confesses, they use the same contaminated information and circumstances as evidence of motive, means, and guilt.
In many cases they also suggest facts that could not have happened, using them in the same ways as discussed above.
Wrongful convictions that arise out of police misconduct are, sadly, a common occurrence. The police need to be held to a higher standard to ensure innocent people do not land in jail, and the guilty are not left roaming the streets while someone else pays for their crimes.