A survey of potential jurors' perceptions of interrogations and confessions
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law
© 2018 American Psychological Association. Confessions represent one of the most influential types of evidence, and research has shown that mock jurors often fail to dismiss unreliable confession evidence. However, recent studies suggest that jurors might believe in the false confession phenomenon more than they once did. One possible reason for this could be increased publicity regarding false confession cases. To assess this possibility, we administered an extensive online survey to a sample of potential jurors in the United States from 11 universities and Amazon Mechanical Turk. Perceptions of confession behaviors (as related to others and oneself), Miranda waivers, interrogation methods, dispositional risk factors, and confession admissibility and evidentiary weight were assessed, in addition to respondents' self-reported crime-media activity and familiarity with disputed confession cases. Respondents' perceptions were generally consistent with empirical research findings. Respondents believed suspects do not understand their Miranda rights; gauged interrogation tactics usage relatively accurately; viewed psychologically coercive tactics as coercive and more likely to result in false, rather than true, confessions; and recognized that confessions elicited via coercive measures should be inadmissible as evidence in court. However, respondents' perceptions did not align with research on interrogation length, and respondents did not fully appreciate the risk youth poses in interrogations. Moreover, being familiar with disputed confession cases resulted in more negative views of interrogations and confessions. Overall, potential jurors are seemingly more cognizant of false confessions and the tactics that elicit them than in the past, and evidence suggests that media outlets can be used to promote interrogation and confession knowledge.
Mindthoff, A., Evans, J., Perez, G., Woestehoff, S., Olaguez, A., Zoe Klemfuss, J., Normile, C., Scherr, K., Carlucci, M., Carol, R., Meissner, C., Michael, S., Russano, M., Stocks, E., Vallano, J., & Woody, W. (2018). A survey of potential jurors' perceptions of interrogations and confessions. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 24 (4), 430-448. https://doi.org/10.1037/law0000182