A wrongful conviction happens when a judge or jury convicts an innocent person. While many factors may lead to a wrongful conviction, false confessions were to blame in an alarming number of cases in recent years.
In theory, innocent individuals do not confess to crimes they did not commit. Still, when investigating criminal activity, officers have a variety of ways to elicit both true and false convictions. False ones typically occur for just a few reasons.
Wearing down suspects
It is not uncommon for officers to confine criminal suspects to interrogation rooms for hours or even days. During this time, officers may wear down a suspect. Simply to end the interrogation, an innocent person may confess to a crime.
Giving untrue information to suspects
With few exceptions, officers may lie to criminal suspects without breaking the law. For example, an investigator may lie about the results of a polygraph test, the existence of evidence or the testimony of other witnesses. If a person believes the police have overwhelming evidence, he or she may give a false confession.
Sympathizing with suspects
Officers commonly sympathize with suspects. That is, they try to provide suspects with a reasonable or moral explanation for criminal conduct. A suspect may wrongly confess to a crime to be a good person or merely to make officers happy.
The U.S. Constitution gives all individuals some fundamental rights. These include the right to remain silent during police questioning and the right to talk to an attorney. Ultimately, because officers are good at obtaining false confessions, it may be advisable to exercise these rights.