A new study conducted by Florida International University (FIU) revealed that juvenile suspects are much more likely than their older counterparts to falsely confess to crimes.
reported that the study, which was led by FIU psychologist Lindsay C. Malloy, and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, examined interrogations, confessions and guilty pleas of 193 males between the ages of 14 and 17 who were convicted of serious offenses. According to the October 17, 2013 story published in
, Mallow said, “ ‘People need to understand that juvenile suspects are especially vulnerable in the interrogation room …The ways in which we question youth can have potentially devastating consequences in some cases.’ ”
According to the findings published this week in the American Psychological Association’s journal
Law and Human Behavior
, more than one-third of the study’s participants claimed to have made a false admission to legal authorities.
Last month, in a
September 9, 2013 blog post
reported that data from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that in the last 25 years, 38% of exonerations for crimes allegedly committed by youth under 18 years of age involved false confessions, compared with 11% for adults.
“ ‘Interrogations, confessions and pleas are aspects of the legal system that generally occur behind closed doors,’ Malloy said. ‘It is important to hear from youth directly about their experiences, especially in the U.S., where police are largely allowed to question juveniles in the same manner as adults.’ ”
A majority of the participants reported that questioning police officers made threats and used force during interrogation. Others reported that they were refused a lawyer, a phone call or a chance to speak to a parent. Most of the interrogations lasted two hours or longer.
“ ‘Our results highlight the need for reform in policies regarding young suspects. …We hope that these findings will inform and motivate those who make decisions about interrogating youth,’ ” Mallow told the
The Innocence Project supports reforms to improve how all interrogations are conducted, including recording interviews and avoiding long interrogations, deception, leading questions and promises of leniency. The electronic recording of interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions.
Understand the Causes:
How False Confessions Happen