The results of the first behavioral study to investigate whether people will provide false secondary confessions raises significant concerns about the use of such evidence when informants are offered incentives. The study was conducted by psychological researchers at the University of Arkansas.The blog also has a fuller explanation of how the study worked, but the bottom line is the bottom line. The authors of the study provide these suggestions:
A "secondary confession" is a polite name for snitching. A news article on the study is here. The study is now published in the Journal of Law and Human Behavior in an article titled “Snitching, Lies and Computer Crashes: An Experimental Investigation of Secondary Confessions.”
Bottom line: "[A]n incentive increased the rate of false rather than true secondary confessions."
The concern is partly based on confessions being assumed to be the end-all and be-all of trial evidence, when at least in the case of secondary confessions they should be treated as hearsay,” Swanner said.To learn more about what can be done to prevent false confessions as well, read our page here.
She and Beike suggested several safeguards, including video recordings of all interviews and interrogations of informants and suspects as well as pretrial hearings and expert testimony to allow jurors to better assess the validity of secondary confessions entered as evidence.
“It is essential for jurors, prosecutors and judges to be informed about the potentially biasing nature of incentives to confess,” they concluded. “Snitches may indeed lie or come to believe a falsehood about another to be the truth. Jurors must be able to consider this possibility as they make their verdicts.
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