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NCJ Number: 165100 Find in a Library
Title: Coerced Confessions and the Jury: An Experimental Test of the "Harmless Error" Rule
Journal: Law and Human Behavior  Volume:21  Issue:1  Dated:(February 1997)  Pages:27-46
Author(s): S M Kassin; H Sukel
Date Published: 1997
Page Count: 20
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Arizona v. Fulminante in 1991, two studies evaluated the proposition that an erroneously admitted, coerced confession can be considered "harmless error."
Abstract: A total of 85 introductory psychology students served as mock jurors and read transcripts of a murder trial containing a confession that was elicited in a high- or low-pressure interrogation and ruled admissible or inadmissible by the judge. No-confession control groups were also included. As prescribed by law, jurors saw the high-pressure confession as less voluntary, correctly recalled the judge's ruling, and reported the confession had less influence on their decisions. On verdicts, however, the confession increased the conviction rate--even when it was seen as coerced, even when it was stricken from the record, and even when jurors said it had no influence. The results suggest that appellate courts should exercise caution in applying the harmless error rule to the admission of coerced confessions. 50 references, 6 tables, and 1 figure
Main Term(s): Appellate courts
Index Term(s): Coercive persuasion of offenders; Confessions; Court statistics; Harmless error doctrine; Rules of evidence; US Supreme Court decisions
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