Being arrested can be an extremely stressful event in one’s life. A police officer may be intimidating you or pushing you to make certain statements. Without a lawyer at your side to guide you through the process and protect your rights, you may say things you later wish you hadn’t.
It’s surprisingly common for innocent suspects to provide false statements under pressure from law enforcement. In fact, of all of the convicted individuals who were subsequently exonerated through the Innocence Project, one in four cases involved false statements by the suspects.
Distinguishing between a true and false confession
Social scientists have been studying how people perceive the truthful and voluntary nature of others’ statements. They found that in police interrogation videos, the position of the camera in the room can change outsiders’ perception of threats or coercion from the interrogating officer.
In a trial setting, this finding has important implications. Most police interrogations are videotaped, and this evidence can often be shown to a jury in court. The perspective of the camera filming the interactions has the power to sway a jury’s verdict.
An equal, side-by-side angle would make the jury more likely to notice indicators of threats or coercion from the interrogating officer. Meanwhile, a camera that points at the suspect head on – without any view of the officer’s face or body language – would make a jury more likely to view the suspect’s statements as voluntary, and therefore trustworthy. These findings hold up even when the video footage includes verbal and other audio indicators of coercion.
This phenomenon – known as camera perspective bias – can be key in helping to get an innocent suspect acquitted. An experienced criminal defense attorney can use this data to their advantage in bolstering their case.