The American Psychological Association, together with the University of Ohio, recently sponsored a conference in El Paso, Texas, on False Confessions, featuring a virtual Who’s Who in the field. It was a verse crowd including false confession experts, clinicians and researchers, defense attorneys, police officers, The Texas Innocence Project, The Justice Project, and a representative from a local Texas District Attorney’s office. I was invited as the Keynote Speaker.
Allison Redlich gave a presentation on the relationship between false confessions, false guilty pleas, and the mentally ill. She also discussed some of the reasons that the mentally ill plead guilty to crimes that they are innocent of involving the fact that their stay in jail tended to be longer than that of other people since few cared enough about hem to bail them out. And wanting to get out of jail, some figure that they have served most of the time already anyway.
Still others reason that their public defender is inept and that they would likely be convicted anyway, given the reality of the current state of many public defender offices, including the built-in handicap of often being assigned too many cases at the same time, and the extreme budgetary differences between public defender offices and prosecutors. And, given that eight out of ten people who confess are found guilty, I would say that that is a pretty accurate perception.
Redlich also mentioned that states in which there is a “three strikes and you’re out” law, some of the mentally ill plead guilty to crimes they are innocent of in order to protect a friend. In those cases, conviction would result in their friend being convicted of their third strike, and therefore going away for life, whereas they would only get a few years.