During the course of a criminal trial in a state court the confession of the defendant was admitted and the jury was instructed to determine its voluntary character. The confession was obtained by a number of officers who questioned the defendant for a total of twelve hours stretched out over a thirty-two hour period, during which period the suspect was permitted to· eat and sleep. The defendant was held incommunicado over sixty-four hours before arraignment. In return for his confession the defendant was able to negotiate with the officers for the release of his father who was arrested at the same time, and was promised that his brother would not be prosecuted for a parole violation. The jury was instructed that the confession was valid if voluntary, but if they found that coercion had been used to obtain the confession, they were not to consider it, but instead, make their determination of guilt on the other evidence admitted at the trial. Held: conviction affirmed.
The trial of Cardinal Mindszenty, the trial of William Otis, and the germ warfare confessions of American soldiers in Korea, prove that a confession may be extorted by mental punishment just as readily as by physical torture. One of the difficult problems in the field of psychological coercion is the determination of what test is to be applied to determine whether the confession is voluntary. Different courts have used different terms to test the admissibility of a confession, such as "forced," "coerced," "involuntary," and "loss of freedom of will."
John P. Pfann,
Recent Cases: Criminal Law — Psychological Coercion of Confessions in State Courts,
33 Neb. L. Rev. 507
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol33/iss3/16