Implications of False Confessions on Criminal Procedure

The criminal justice system is no stranger to false confessions. The media is rife with reports of persons lying under oath while knowingly misleading the court by providing phony testimonies. Results of such decision have often been adverse, considering that convicted felons end up serving lengthy prison sentences, only to be exonerated by emerging evidence. According to Newring (2015), false confessions are as a result of deliberate contamination, a case of misclassification or even coercion by law enforcement agencies (p.45). Apart from affecting the person on trial, false confessions (resulting from either persuasion, compliance or by volunteering) pervert the course of justice, dealing a blow on criminal procedure. The number of individuals set free by courts, after lodging their appeals, provides a window into the extent of this existential problem. Leading democracies around the world that so often abide by the rule of law are usually at pains to explain how it is possible for false confessions to prevail in a criminal justice system. A country’s citizenry depends on the scales of justice to provide fair rulings whenever cases are brought before a court of law at any particular time. The purpose of this research paper is therefore to highlight false confessions and how they subsequently affect the criminal procedure.

The world has in the recent past been taken aback by revelations that specific convicts may have been imprisoned based on false evidence. In some cases, victims of this blatant misrepresentation of facts may have had the maximum sentence meted out to them by the court, only for evidence to emerge absolving them of any wrongdoing. The criminal justice system is put in the spotlight whenever such cases are revealed to the public since it has the mandate to ensure that the procedure leading to a conviction is flawless. It is disheartening to come across cases of death row convicts who have spent a considerable amount of time behind bars for crimes they did not commit. False confessions point to gaps in the criminal procedure since the collection of evidence to be used in court serves as a vital step in ensuring that justice is served. Erroneous prosecutions have featured cases where the criminal procure exposed its inadequacies especially when crucial evidence such as DNA samples are left out (Trainum, 2016). A police interrogation regime that is psychologically coercive often has a similar effect whereby an innocent defendant inadvertently provides a false confession. The result is a conviction based on a blemished criminal procedure that many find hard to depend on.

False confessions erode the trust the citizenry place on the criminal justice system and procedure.  It is a widely known fact that societies thrive in an environment where the public has total confidence in those given that mandate of implementing the rule of law and applying natural justice. Failing to thoroughly cross-examine the confessions given or corroborating it with additional evidence places doubts in the hearts of those it is expected to serve. In such a situation, people develop parochial feelings that alienate them further from the criminal justice system and all its apparatus. False confessions that lead to convictions are interpreted as a lack of commitment by those in charge of criminal procedure, lowering the public’s confidence in such agencies. Moreover, those wrongly convicted as a result of false confessions suffer from immeasurable psychological torment once they are taken into custody for crimes they did not commit.

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