Behavioral Sciences & the Law

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Volume 37 Issue 4 (July 2019), Pages 3-468

Stigma against false confessors impacts post‐exoneration financial compensation (pages 372-387)

False confessors are stigmatized more than other exonerees. Traditional theories of stigma suggest that this difference may result from confessors being seen as more responsible for their own wrongful conviction. In the current study, we examined an important tangible consequence of stigma against false confessors—namely, that it might impede their ability to win financial restitution in post‐exoneration civil lawsuits. Mock jurors (N = 129), recruited online, read a case summary in which an exoneree is seeking damages after being wrongly convicted due to a false confession or eyewitness misidentification, which either did or did not result from police misconduct. When the exoneree falsely confessed in the absence of police misconduct, mock jurors rated him as most responsible for his own conviction and expressed the most doubt over his actual innocence. Contrary to legal criteria, they also awarded him smaller compensatory and punitive damage awards. Notably, the false confessor was seen as more responsible than the misidentified exoneree even if his interrogation was highly coercive. In turn, false confessors who were seen as more responsible received smaller damage awards. Implications for trial procedure and exoneree compensation are discussed.

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