American Judges Association



Thomas Grisso

Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 50, Issue 1 (2014)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


My comments use a developmental perspective on adolescents’ capacities as a way to supplement the conclusions of three previous articles in this volume (Tepfer, Nirider and Drizin;1 Frumkin;2 and Heilbrun et al.3) that discuss policies to protect juveniles in legal contexts in which they are asked to make self-incriminating statements.

The Tepfer and Frumkin articles provide ample reason for concern about adolescents’ responses to police interrogation. They argue adolescents are at greater risk of making false confessions (as they are more susceptible to police interrogation strategies) and are more likely to waive their rights due to poor understanding or acquiescence. Tepfer and his coauthors point out that we have entered an era of juvenile justice reform that recognizes that “adolescents are different,” a perspective that has received special emphasis by the U.S. Supreme Court in several recent cases.4 Age, the Court says, must be taken into consideration when weighing the validity of a confession.5 Frumkin describes some of the things that mental health examiners can do to assist courts in weighing youths’ capacities and vulnerability—especially their suggestibility—in individual cases that challenge confessions. Both articles refer broadly to differences between adolescents and adults. My comments add some complexities that arise when we go beyond these differences to address diversity among young people across the adolescent age span. This leads me to suggest some refinements in our thinking about the types of protections needed for juveniles in police interrogations.