may seem strange that people would confess to a crime they didn't commit. But
false confessions are not rare: More than one-quarter of the 365 people
exonerated in recent decades by the nonprofit Innocence Project had confessed
to their alleged crimes. These days, confessions are being questioned as never
before—not just by defense lawyers, but by lawmakers and some police
departments, which are reexamining their approach to interrogation.
Psychologist Saul Kassin of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New
York City is one of the leading figures in this reexamination. In more than 30
years of research, he has revealed how standard interrogation techniques
combine psychological pressures and escape hatches that can easily cause an
innocent person to confess. In more recent work, he has shown how a confession,
true or not, can exert a powerful pull on witnesses and even forensic
examiners, shaping the entire trial.