When discussing the subject of false confessions, it needs to be made very clear from the start that Amanda Knox never confessed to any crime. During her illegal interrogation, Amanda was pressured into accusing another man of the murder of Meredith Kercher. She was also pressured into stating that she was in the cottage at the time of the murder. Even though she never confessed to the murder, the results of her illegal interrogation were the same.
Many people simply cannot understand how anyone could be pressured into making statements they knew were untrue. Amanda Knox is in prison today because she was pressured to do just that. In Amanda's case, she didn't even write out the so called confession. She didn't even speak the words. Amanda Knox signed a letter typed out by her interrogators. After a long aggressive interrogation from at least 12* members of the police force, being repeatedly slapped on the back of her head and called a stupid liar, Amanda signed her name on the prepared document.
There are many reasons why people end up giving a false confession. In Amanda's case, her statements were coerced. Coerced confessions unfortunately are not uncommon. Fear tactics such as direct threats, intimidation or actual physical abuse, are used to coerce suspects into falsely admitting guilt to a crime or in Amanda's case, implicating another person.
Fear tactics were used against Amanda. She was told she was going to prison for 30 years. She was told she would never see her family again. Intimidation was also used. She was repeatedly slapped on the back of her head and called a stupid liar.
Coerced false confessions often involve long interrogations, which last many hours. The suspect is forced to go without food and water. The suspect is kept awake for long periods of time and gets so worn down emotionally and physically that he or she is more likely to give false statements in an attempt to end the torture. During the confession, the police suggest information to the exhausted suspect, which the suspect incorporates into the confession.
Amanda's illegal interrogation lasted for many hours. She was already suffering from extreme exhaustion when her final night of interrogation began. The information for the so called confession wasn't only suggested to Amanda, the police were kind enough to type out the entire statement in their own words. Amanda simply needed to sign it. As soon as the pen met the paper and Amanda signed her name, her life would be changed forever. Amanda Knox was a 20 year old college student visiting a foreign country. She was under intense pressure from at least 12 members of the Italian police force. She never stood a chance against these tactics.
Why was Amanda Knox so confused?
One of the most brutal types of false confessions are coerced internalized confessions. A suspect confesses after being subjected to interrogation tactics that cause extreme anxiety and confusion. The suspect ends up actually thinking they might have committed the crime. This is very dangerous as a suspect's memory can be altered and the suspect can no longer identify the truth. This type of confession may happen mostly if the suspect is vulnerable, such as being naive or young. In Amanda's case, add the fact that she was also visiting a foreign country and didn't speak fluent Italian at the time. These factors coupled with false evidence that leads the suspect to believe that they may have actually committed the crime. When suspects are confronted with false evidence of their guilt, for example being told that they already have the proof needed to convict such as DNA found at the scene of the crime, or other witness testimony, they begin questioning their memory on what really happened and about their involvement in the crime.
False confessions are a reality. Here are just a few examples of false confessions that threatened to destroy the lives of innocent people.
Marty Tankleff was 17 years old when he was arrested for killing his parents. Marty was convicted and sentenced to 50 years to life. His conviction was the result of an unsigned confession was extracted from Marty following hours of interrogation by a detective with a questionable background. Marty served 17 years in prison before his conviction was vacated by the New York State Appellate Division.
On the morning of January 21, 1998, 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe was found murdered. Stephanie's brother Michael endurred a long Interrogation and finally confessed to killing his sister. Michael Crowe's case is a classic example of a coerced false confesssion.
Articles and resources related to false confessions.
Ronald Kitchen confessed under extreme physical duress to taking part in five murders. Kitchen spent 21 years in prison before being exonerated and freed on July 7, 2009
* It has been reported that up to 30 members of the Italian police force signed off on Amanda's signed statements. We have confirmation that at least 12 officers were active in the interrogation.
a website detailing the wrongful conviction of Amanda Knox & Raffaele Sollecito