Currently viewing the tag: "mistake"

Interrogation (255/365)

Confessions, when true, are an important tool in convicting criminals. But false confessions frequently play a major role in convicting innocent people. Experiments show that juries and potential witnesses are influenced by confessions even if they know they were coerced. Also in the lab, experienced polygraph examiners, fingerprint experts, and other experts, when informed of a confession, see what they expect to see — that is, evidence of guilt…

To back up these findings with real-life data, the psychologists thoroughly reviewed the trial records of 241 people exonerated by the Innocence Project since 1992. Of these, 59 — or 25 percent — involved false confessions, either by the defendant or an alleged accomplice. One-hundred eighty — or 75 percent — involved eyewitness mistakes. The analysis revealed that multiple errors turned up far more often in false confession cases than in eyewitness cases: 69 percent versus fewer than half. And two thirds of the time, the confession came first, followed by other errors, namely invalid forensic science and government informants.

Kassin believes the findings “greatly underestimate the problem” because of what never shows up in court: evidence of innocence. Told the suspect confessed, “alibi witnesses back out, thinking they’re mistaken,” police stop searching for the real culprit. “We show that confessions bring in other incriminating evidence that is false. What we don’t see is a tendency to suppress exculpatory evidence.”

The study throws doubt on a critical legal concept designed to safeguard the innocent: corroboration. Appeals courts uphold a conviction even if a false confession is discovered, as long as other evidence — say, forensics or other witness testimony — independently shows guilt. “What these findings suggest is that there may well be the appearance of corroboration,” says Kassin, “but it is false evidence that was corrupted by the confession — not independent at all.” –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a story or scene about a coerced confession and its fallout.

Journaling Prompt: What would it take to get you to admit to something you didn’t do?

Art Prompt: Coercion

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about a coerced confession that was recanted and how the case ended up.

Photo Credit: andrewrennie on Flickr

Urban Life

“Simply put, my newfound theory states: The minute a person comes to the erroneous conclusion that he or she controls anything at all in this life, the Universe immediately gets even with the bloody idiot.” -Marilyn Brant, According To Jane

Writing Prompt: Write a scene where your character decides he or she is in control. Then let chaos reign.

Journaling Prompt: How has the Universe shown you that you are not in control?

Art Prompt: The Illusion of Control

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney on Flickr


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“It began as a mistake.” Charles Bukowski, Post Office

Writing Prompt: Use the line as the start of a scene or poem and start writing.

Journaling Prompt: Write about something that happened in your life that began as a mistake.

Art Prompt: Mistake

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell a humorous story about a mistake you made that spiraled out of control.

Photo Credit: Adagio_Art on Flickr


Have you ever done something without thinking? Well, in this story about the Secret Service, the Turkish Prime Minister gets a big surprise when he gets out of his car without thinking.

The prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was not so understanding. His motorcade was arriving at the Sheraton Hotel while a “POTUS Freeze” was in place. The Secret Service agent in charge of Erdogan’s detail asked him to wait until Obama’s motorcade had departed, but the Turkish prime minister did not heed the advice. He opened the door to his car, and armed Turkish agents began exiting the other vehicles in the motorcade. “Don’t do that!” the American detail leader shouted. But Erdogan’s entourage nonetheless approached Obama’s departure tent. An agent in the Presidential Protective Detail, having no idea who these foreign guys with guns were, yelled into his handheld mike, “Crash it! Crash the tent!” Within moments, a dozen agents were out of their cars in full sprint, guns drawn, and the Turks were forcibly detained.

The incident was over within 20 seconds, but the Turkish delegation was mightily offended. It canceled several events in New York, while the Secret Service and the State Department apologized and tried to smooth hurt egos. Although agents had done exactly what they were supposed to do, the service initiated a full review, and procedures were altered to ensure that presidential motorcades didn’t intersect with waiting dignitaries in the future.

Full article available online at The Atlantic Monthly.

Writing Prompt: Write about a character who gets a big surprise. Remember, have fun! Your writing exercise doesn’t have to be about secret service agents with guns. It could be a girl at a singles bar who suddenly finds herself surrounded by men offering her martinis.

Nonfiction / Speech Writing / Journaling Prompt: Write about a time you did something without thinking and got a big surprise.

Art Prompt: surprise!

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about a time when you got a big surprise.

If you’re brave, share your work as a comment. And now, I’ve got to get back to all those guys with martinis. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Photo Credit: Martini photo by Rodrigo Senna.