Causes of Wrongful Convictions:
   False Confessions

False confessions may be one of the most confusing of all the primary contributors to wrongful convictions because it involves self-indictment. Innocent persons, however, have been known to falsely confess to crimes they did not commit. False confessions can happen under certain circumstances, when police interrogation tactics are physically or mentally tortuous, exhausting, or seemingly never-ending, when they confuse the defendant, or suggest to the defendant that he or she “did it” using “what if” scenarios.

An innocent defendant may make a false confession due to mental impairment, disability, or instability, intoxication or drug use, fear of violence, actual violence, threat of a long prison sentence, ignorance of the law, and misunderstanding.

The Innocence Project has determined that 25 percent of wrongful conviction cases overturned by DNA testing involved false confession.

The interactive graphic above is a joint project between the Innocence Project and Brandon Garrett, author of "Convicting the Innocent." 

Last page update: November 18, 2011

© 2011-2013 Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. All rights reserved.