Innocence and Interrogation

by Fr. Ernesto Obregon

The video above speaks to a phenomenon that can happen inadvertently when police are trying to learn who actually committed a crime. Of the many innocent people convicted of crimes about 25% of them confessed to crimes which they did not commit. Thus, many people are very upset when the innocent are released years later. After all, they confessed! How dare the justice system release them?

Let me repeat that this is an inadvertent phenomenon. But, what most people do not realize is that there are many people who will crack under small amounts of pressure. And, unfortunately, interrogation techniques are designed to get a person to “crack” and reveal their inmost secrets. But, about 25% of people crack in an unexpected direction. They crack and begin admitting to anything that they are asked to admit to in order to relieve the psychological pressure that they are feeling. This means that the current information shows that among those who are innocent but convicted, 25% actually admitted to a crime they did not commit.

But, this makes it particularly hard for many in the USA to admit that an innocent person has been convicted. Rather, our assumption is that any person should be able to resist the psychological pressure of interrogation if they are truly innocent. So, when the DNA evidence shows that an innocent was convicted, we immediately point to the confession and charge that a guilty person has managed to pull a scam on the justice system. “They are guilty!” we say. But, they are not. They are innocent. DNA evidence is neutral and independent of any observer or any confession or any interrogation.

If you look back at USA history, it was during the Korean War that the term “brainwashing” was coined. It was back then that people in the USA realized that it was possible to so psychologically traumatize a person that they changed their beliefs and their behavior. Eventually, as the constellation of behaviors was understood, a new psychological syndrome was identified in the 1970′s, Stockholm syndrome. What is Stockholm syndrome?

In psychology, Stockholm Syndrome is an apparently paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 27% of victims show evidence of Stockholm Syndrome.

Note that the percentage of people who show Stockholm syndrome is identical to the number of innocent people who confess to a crime that they did not commit. This should give you a hint that the information on innocents who confess to a crime they did not commit is absolutely correct information.

What does this mean for us as Christians? That we should be very slow to condemn. That we should be cautious about “confessions.” That we should have a lot of understanding for law enforcement, which is trying to solve crimes while avoiding “brainwashing” someone into a confession. That we should understand that only God knows all things and that our knowledge is only partial and can be mistaken. That we should be willing to accept the innocence of someone who is found innocent. Frankly, there are many crimes in which the proof is clear and unambiguous. But, as Christians we need to keep ourselves from assuming that we know the “truth” about each and every crime that is reported. Let us not only believe, but also in our thoughts practice that only God knows all truth and let us be willing to change our minds when what we thought to be true is shown to not be so.

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This entry was posted in Christianity, Church, Evangelical, Evangelism, Grace, Integrity, Justice, Law, Murder, Parole, Prison, The State. Bookmark the permalink.

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