From suspect statement to legal decision making how do judges weigh the evidence?

Pieter Tersago, Miet Vanderhallen*, Joelle Rozie, Sara-Jane Mclntyre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Notwithstanding that confessions are considered the "Queen of evidence," how judges actually weigh suspects' statements in reaching their decision remains relatively unknown. This study sought to examine how Belgian judges determine the evidential value of a suspect's statement, specifically how they evaluate the statement's: (a) admissibility and validity and (b) interaction with other pieces of evidence. To shed light on this legal decision-making process, 100 Belgian burglary case files were examined, and semi-structured interviews were undertaken with ten Belgian judges. The findings suggest that: the judge's evaluation of a suspect's statement differs depending on the outcome of the statement; how a statement is obtained does not appear to be an essential aspect of evidence evaluation; judges expend more effort to falsify denials than confessions; and only when they fail to falsify the denial is an acquittal granted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-187
Number of pages13
JournalZeitschrift für Psychologie
Volume228
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

Keywords

  • legal decision making
  • suspect interview
  • confession
  • evidence
  • forensic confirmation bias
  • interrogation techniques
  • confession evidence

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