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Contribution to Book
The Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science (2009)
  • Mark Costanzo, Claremont McKenna College
  • Richard A. Leo

Interrogations are designed to persuade a presumably guilty suspect to admit that he committed a crime. Although the “third degree” was once common in the United States, it is now rare for interrogators to rely on physical abuse as a means of extracting criminal confessions. Instead of physical force, police now rely on psychological coercion. Over the course of an interrogation, police strive to convince the suspect that the evidence against him is compelling and that admitting guilt is the only sensible course of action. The interrogator seeks to create the impression that confessing will actually improve the suspect’s otherwise hopeless situation. Sometimes an innocent suspect will be misclassified by police as guilty and subjected to psychologically powerful interrogation techniques. A significant number of these innocent suspects will offer a false confession. Methods of reducing the risk of false confessions and subsequent wrongful convictions (e.g., video recording of interrogations and expert testimony at trial) are discussed.

  • police interrogation,
  • criminal law,
  • criminal procedure,
  • false confession,
  • wrongful conviction
Publication Date
Allan Jamieson & Andre Moenssens
John Wiley & Sons
Citation Information
Mark Costanzo and Richard A. Leo. "Interrogation" LondonThe Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science Vol. 3 (2009)
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