It is naturally inconceivable for anyone to confess to a crime they did not commit, especially where the consequences of such a crime are adverse. However, the trend of false confessions has increased tremendously with more people confessing to crimes that they did not commit. The existence of a confession by the accused ultimately changes the status of the case and in most cases the case is left for determination by the judge of jury. It refers to the acknowledgement and disclosure of a crime committed. The impact of false confessions is that they lead to false forensic evidence, wrongful convictions, which ultimately lead to the miscarriage of justice in a nation that prides itself in the rule of law.
There are a number of reasons why a person may confess falsely to a crime he or she did not commit. Firstly, advancement in the world of science and technology has affected every sphere of human life, including the legal processes in every country. The growth in science and technology has led to the discovery of new interrogation techniques that are used to obtain information from the accused. These interrogation techniques are so advanced, powerful and complex that they not only induce false confessions from the mentally retarded, mentally ill juveniles, and other vulnerable groups, but can equally lead persons with high intelligence and in full possession of their mental faculties to confess to crimes they did not commit. Today, the new scientific techniques of interrogation, like Brain fingerprinting, Brain mapping, Narco-analysis, and lie detectors, have facilitated false confessions. Thus, asides from torture which involves beating, suffocation and electrocution, the advancement in the techniques of interrogation has added to the increased number of false confessions.
Secondly, a person may also confess to a crime that he or she did not commit due to desperation. This ideally boils down to the length of the interrogation, when a person has been subjected to prolonged interrogation by the investigators, leading that person to suffer from fatigue, and, thus, confessing to the crime for the sake of bringing to an end the interrogation. They usually assume that since they are innocent, they will be able to straighten things out after they get some rest. The length of the interrogation should, therefore, be controlled not to tire the accused so that the answers given are not out of desperation (Jesse, 2003).
How the investigating officer handles false confession is crucial to the delivery of justice to all the parties involved. Where an interrogating officer discovers that the confession is false, the same should not be admitted in evidence. It is the duty of the investigating officer to ensure that the confession taken is true in regards to the facts of the case and, therefore, they should be careful whenever they receive confessions, especially in a crime that involves family members. The investigating officer must carry out an independent investigation after receiving the confession in order to ascertain the truthfulness of that confession. The consequences of ignoring false confessions where the officer has knowledge that the confession is false should be adverse and punitive in nature. The investigating officer responsible should be suspended pending investigation into his conduct, with the possibility of permanent termination of his or her employment. This is because, where the false confession is admitted into evidence, the consequences that a person suffers are adverse, irreparable and damaging. An individual who is sentenced to death due to evidence arising from a false confession may actually end up being killed; this will lead to the loss of innocent life, destruction of a family and mental torture to the family members. The damage also extends to the entire justice system where the confidence of the country is eroded and, thus, they do not trust the ability of the legal system to deliver justice to all. This kind of damage is usually very extensive and takes time to repair as people may not be able to trust in justice system of the country.
Miranda warnings refer to the full disclosure of an individual’s rights by the arresting or investigating officer. These rights are meant to inform the accused of the options that he or she can seek and what the law provides for him or her. The relation between Miranda warnings and false confessions arises where such warnings are withheld from the accused leading to him or her confess to a crime he may not have committed. Where a person is ignorant of the law and of his or her rights, he or she may be taken advantage of by the interrogating officer. For instance, an accused person may be made to believe that involving his or her lawyer during the process of questioning may result in a harsher punishment; this is an outright violation of the Miranda warning where the accused should be informed of his or her right to an attorney. Thus, where this is the case, the investigating officer may employ some interrogation techniques that are not appropriate resulting in a false confession. Similarly, the accused may also be made to believe that confessing to the crime may result in him or her receiving a lighter sentence. Therefore, the importance of an investigating officer to issue a Miranda warning is crucial to the truthfulness of the confession (Dan, 2000).
The issue of compensating persons who have been convicted due to false confessions is one that goes to the root of the interrogation and to the character and nature of the person convicted. Compensation may go a long way in mitigating the damage done to the person who may have confessed falsely, thus, resulting in a conviction. However, before compensation may be awarded to these particulars individuals, it is important to understand how the confession was acquired and the state of mind of the apparent victim. For instance, where the confession was acquired through questionable interrogation techniques that are not permitted by the law, like through torture, then it is only right that the victim be compensated. Similarly, where the confession is from a person who is considered to be vulnerable, mentally challenged, or any other form of vulnerability, compensation should be awarded. This is because, a mentally challenged individual is highly susceptible to the common police interrogation techniques that sometimes cause innocent people to confess and, thus, compensating them is only right. However, where the confession was obtained form an individual considered being in full possession of his or her mental faculties and the method of interrogation is according to what the law permits, then compensation for such an individual may not be appropriate. This is because, compensating such individuals may lead to deliberate misconduct to gain some tactical advantage, for example, where a confession is intended to conceal a loved one’s guilt. Therefore, in this case, the primary position should be that, a person, in control of his or her mental faculties, whose own misconduct causes conviction, should not be compensated.