Should you ever confess a crime you haven’t committed?

Clotilde ReissThey’ve been described as show trials, but that hasn’t stopped yet another “confession” in Iran. This time it’s French national Clothilde Reiss, a young teacher who was charged by Iranian authorities  for spying and helping the West to overthrow the government. And she’s not alone, the number of “false confessions” in Iran since the protests earlier this year is on the rise.

The Justice Project website has some more examples of when people have falsely confessed. Sean Hodgson spent 27 years in a British prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  In Japan 99% of those accused of breaking the law are found guilty, as there as few safeguards to protect the innocent. And here are some reasons why people might confess a crime they haven’t committed: protecting a loved one, low intelligence, tangible gains , illness to name a few – but are anything of these worth sacrificing your own principles?

“Coercian” was the reason given by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for the number of confessions coming out of Iran. “These ‘confessions’ were probably elicited under pressure. ”

So should you ever take responsibility for something you haven’t done? And why do innocent people confess?

19 Responses to “Should you ever confess a crime you haven’t committed?”

  1. 1 anu_D
    August 11, 2009 at 20:02

    What’s the Point of this question for debate…the answer to which is an obvious no-brainer.

  2. 2 Tom K in Mpls
    August 11, 2009 at 20:16

    Politics is the art of compromise. Any tactic is valid, especially if it is legal. If you know it will actually gain ground and it is worth the price, why not.

  3. 3 T
    August 11, 2009 at 20:17

    In many cases, people do this because they’re being tortured. There are laws that ban torture. Many countries say they respect that. But then torture anyway. How many of their citizens hold them accountable for their actions? Certainly not in the States.

  4. 4 Dennis Junior
    August 11, 2009 at 21:00

    NO….You should never confess to a crime that *you* committed….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  5. 5 Dennis Junior
    August 12, 2009 at 03:10

    (And why do innocent people confess?)….Because often the case is they were forced by the Police and other parties to accept blame for a crime that they had NO involvement…

    NB: I am not making any accusations against any particular case….

    =Dennis Junior=

  6. 6 Ramesh, India
    August 12, 2009 at 03:11

    I call it low intelligence on the part of Clothilde Reiss to confess. By not confessing, she would have attracted probably a death penalty and the french government would not sit idle to let one of its citizens get hanged in a foreign country. Yes, threats of torture and physical violence could be reasons for confession too. But if she is not a strong person to withstand such abuses, she shouldn’t have gone to Iran in the first place.

  7. 7 Tan Boon Tee
    August 12, 2009 at 04:11

    Why should I admit to something I have not done, let alone confess?

    If I am forced or tortured to confess, then it is the other party which has committed a crime. My confession simply reflects the party’s ruthlessness (if not inhumane atrocity).

    In this world, the oppressors rule, and the oppressed have to submit to their whims and fancies. Perhaps NOT everyone, NOT everywhere, NOT all the time.

  8. 8 VictorK
    August 12, 2009 at 09:25

    Why assume Ms Clothilde is innocent?


    Note the contrast between the Iranians, who more or less admit to torturing people, and the behaviour of the US and UK governments, who usually deny such things until the evidence is leaked proving otherwise. But both governments lecture the Iranians from a position of moral superiority.

    I agree with anu-D about this question.

    • 9 Ramesh, India
      August 12, 2009 at 12:20

      I assume she is innocent because of the laughable charge – spying and helping the West to overthrow the government. The Iranian government said she accepted the charges. But did it elaborate who she is spying for and which western government she is helping to overthrow the Iranian government? I don’t think she is that special woman.

  9. 10 patti in cape coral
    August 12, 2009 at 12:50

    Short answer, no. As to the question, why do innocent people confess, you pretty much covered the reasons I would give, protecting a loved one, low intelligence, tangible gains, illness, torture.

  10. 11 scmehta
    August 12, 2009 at 14:03

    confessing to a crime you haven’t committed, is as bigger lie than not confessing to the one you’ve committed; It is an insult to the human rights and the whole society.

  11. 13 Jonnan
    August 13, 2009 at 06:36

    “Should you”?

    Of course not – one “Should” never commit the sin of aiding in the spread of a deceit.

    But that’s not the real issue – people are far too willing to ignore evidence of attempts to spread deceit. People ignore torture done to people ‘turned in’ by rivals in Afghanistan because (for reasons escaping me) they feel that ‘something’ is being done to protect them. People ignore that retarded people are lied to by police officers for the same reason, and they ignored that McCarthy’s ‘evidence’ against innocent citizens in the red scare for the same reason.

    It easy to get scared people to accept clearly false things as true. Fear being a reasonable reaction to actual scary things like people who don’t like these people over here and so destroy two building or a country that clearly had nothing to do with the problem, the only solution I can find is to teach people to be able to think clearly even when they’re scared.

    When people can think clearly even when they’re scared, coerced ‘confessions’ will be of no use to immoral people, whether you’re talking about Dick Cheney or Ahmadinejad.

  12. 14 Dinka Aliap Chawul-Kampala,Uganda
    August 13, 2009 at 10:26

    The question is very amashing; Confession has its different meaning in my point of view.There`s that confession were you knew that you`ve participate in one way or another,there`s another where you confess due to assurances given to you that you might get freed when you did so and that of life threatening point & this would force anyone to accept something which u never even dream of.So any informations got from any suspects should depends on what methods were used in the process then.

  13. 15 Jessica in NYC
    August 13, 2009 at 15:50

    “So should you ever take responsibility for something you haven’t done?”

    Life is not this cut and dry, there are circumstance in which taking responsibilty for don’t you haven’t done saves you a lot of trouble. For instance, during my last vacation I was in driving in a country whose cops are know for harassing Americans to get bribes. I was pulled over for passing a red light, which I had not, but the cop threaten to seize the car and take me into the police station while I was on my way to the hospital to take some medical records to a relative. My response, “Officer forgive my ignorance in overlooking the light, you would be doing me a great favor if I could pay you the fine for breaking the law, so that I may get to the hospital.” I was on my way a few minutes later… best $20 I ever spent.

  14. 16 Jessica in NYC
    August 13, 2009 at 15:50

    “And why do innocent people confess?”
    Because the risk of not giving an interrogator what they want could be worst. We all like to think we could hold our ground when faced with adversity, but we are human and have our breaking points. For instance, threaten most mothers with harm to her child and you’ll hear whatever you want to hear.

  15. 17 Tom D Ford
    August 14, 2009 at 17:04

    The number one thing is to keep yourself alive, then you can consider principles after that. If you are dead your principles no longer matter.

  16. 18 David
    August 14, 2009 at 23:22

    It is a very sad thing to admit something that you have never done. I will start with myself.

    Quite recently I had to admit something I new very well I did not do for the sake of saving time for myself and the other parties involved.

    I actually told the other parties involved that I was going to admit, but that admission will be a lie. I then did admit that what they said I did was correct.

  17. August 16, 2009 at 12:10

    You know, the world of espionage is populated by shady characters with even more shady “handlers”. What is and is not crime in that world is shrouded in a fog of disinformation through whicht the truth rarely gets a chance to peek. Each individual must speak for him or herself and then face scrutiny worldwide.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: