Wrongfully Convicted

What do you think the wrongfully convicted can tell us about nonverbal deception detection? Do you think you could tell without a doubt (100%) by someone’s body language, facial, expressions, and verbiage that they were lying?

According to an article Body Language and DNA Exonerations posted on the Psychology Today website, most of us including trained law enforcement, are no better than chance at detecting deception.

Joe Navarro, author of the article, reported that since 1989  there have been 261 post-conviction exonerations in the United States. This means that there have been 261 people wrongly convicted and sent to prison. In most of the above cases, it was only due to the assiduous efforts of the innocent defendants, their families and friends that these cases were given a second thought.

This article exemplifies that wrongful convictions are not rare events but are insidious and often the result of poor training and old fashioned thinking. In 75% of these cases, DNA proof conclusively showed that these individuals did not commit the crimes; it was eye witness testimony, which convicted them. The most surprising fact about Navarro’s article is that in 25% of these cases the defendants themselves while innocent, made incriminating admissions or had signed confession statements admitting guilt. These are some shocking statistics about how fallible humans really can be.

Navarro goes on to point out that about ¼ of us will admit guilt, even though innocent, just to avert the intense interrogation process. He suggests that we need not just more training but proper training for law enforcement and other agencies that literally hold people’s lives in their hands.

Navarro found that in all of these 261 cases 100% of the prosecutors, the judges, and the investigating officers all believed without a doubt that the individuals in question were lying when they denied their involvement. Perhaps, it is not just as important to detect lying as it is to detect truth telling.

In effect, the system didn’t fail to notice inconsistencies within a person’s speech pattern or body language which would suggest deception, but they failed to detect the truth.

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