False confessions are more common than expected. The most common explanations are that the suspect experiences fear, intimidation, frustration and “just wants to go home.”
Deaf individuals as well as other vulnerable groups are at risk for making false confessions because of their communication differences and disabilities, youth, and personality characteristics. In one case I worked on the detectives did not use a sign language interpreter with a deaf woman suspect but instead used written communication and lipreading. The detectives were not aware that the deaf woman had a second grade reading level, could barely write an English grammatical sentence, and was guessing and reading body language to try to determine what the detectives were asking her.
Furthermore, police officers are often trained in using coercive techniques, asking complex questions, repeating questions, making false promises, or threats, or using confusing and ambiguous language to force the false confession. In this article, Individuals with Disabilities and the Issue of False Confessions, published in the Champion, July 2012, p. 34-42, Dr. Vernon and I provide recommendations that can be adopted such as mandatory video recording so that vulnerable populations such as deaf individuals are provided their Constitutional Rights and to ensure there is documentation that the confession is reliable and voluntary.
[Sadly, the link to this article is unavailable, as the Champion has chosen to place it in their protected area. I have included links to their membership page, should you want to join and access it that way. Guest memberships cannot access the protected area. –BitcoDavid]
- Reading Levels and the Jail Medical Psychological Intake Form (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Innocent deaf woman spends 60 hours in jail without interpreter – From Prisonmovent’s Weblog (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Demand Justice for Lashonn White (deafinprison.wordpress.com)
- Denver Council to weigh $695,000 settlement in death of deaf inmate (denverpost.com)
- Denver agrees to pay $695,000 to settle suit in deaf man’s jail death (denverpost.com)
- Sign Bilingualism (iaspreparationonline.com)
[***Update – Dr. Andrews was kind enough to e-mail me a PDF of the full article. Here’s the link. – BitcoDavid]