the confessions


  • Investigate the psychology of false confessions in criminal cases, starting with FRONTLINE’s collection of Research & Studies. For a good overview, see Richard P. Conti’s article “The Psychology of False Confessions.” Create a graphic organizer that illustrates different causes and consequences of false confessions.

  • Read two articles from the FRONTLINE website that represent opposing sides of the question of whether false confessions are a problem in our justice system: "False Confessions?" by Paul G. Cassell and Brandon L. Garrett’s “The Substance of False Confessions.” Debate whether the way suspects are interrogated needs changing.

  • Conduct an in-depth study of why some people are convicted of crimes they did not commit. The Innocence Project provides profiles of a number of individuals who were wrongly convicted and imprisoned, but were later exonerated after DNA testing proved them innocent. Choose five different profiles and analyze the contributing causes and evidence that led to the initial convictions and subsequent exonerations.

  • Invite an experienced police officer into your class to find out how the police in your area interrogate suspects. Prepare for the visit by reading about “Perfectly Legal Interrogation Techniques.” Find out from the officer which interrogation techniques are legal in your area and which are not legal.

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