An Example of what Dr. Richard Leo says when he testifies on the issue of false confessions

Written By: Reid
Jan 31, 2019

In People v. Lucero (January 2019) the court summarized the testimony of Dr. Richard Leo on the issue of false confessions as follows:

Richard Leo, a professor of law and psychology at the University of San Francisco, testified as an expert witness on false confessions. Leo explained that the goal of police interrogation is to get an incriminating statement, ideally a narrative confession from a criminal suspect whom the police officers believe is guilty in order to build a case against them.[T]he assumption is people aren't going to [confess] unless you put pressure on them and use [specialized] psychological accusatory techniques. The interrogation process is designed for guilty people and interrogations are fundamentally accusatory. Therefore, when innocent people are mistakenly interrogated, sometimes they will make or agree to false confessions. There are a number of techniques and a number of personality traits that increase the risk of why somebody would falsely confess, and the explanations are typically based both on the person's individual make up as well as the techniques that are used during interrogation. When an interrogation is prolonged, it usually makes people feel desperate, hopeless, wanting to escape, for them, what is a high-pressure environment. Most false confessions are the product of longer interrogations. Although [interrogations are] not designed to psychologically coerce people, that's the effect nonetheless. Leo testified that hundreds of cases of false confessions have been documented and the law enforcement community is cognizant of, and acknowledges, the phenomenon of false confessions. However, false confessions remain the exception.

For detailed information about law enforcement interrogation techniques and the suggestion that they can cause false confessions, see "Clarifying Misrepresentations About Law Enforcement Interrogation Techniques" click here.