Rebutting Saul Kassin’s Substantive Claim Of Forced Confession

This was first posted on 12 January 2011 (see 30+ comments under that post).  It shows in effect that EVEN IF the timeline on the night of Knox’s “confession” in which she actually blamed Patrick Lumumba resembled Saul Kassin’s fantasy timeline there is no sign that Amanda Knox is one of the very few with the “right” psycho-sociology to cave quickly under police interrogations.

My original post pre-dates by some month Dr Kassin’s erroneous, self-serving claims to Seattle radio and CBS 48 Hours, and by over a year his misleading KEYNOTE address (scroll down) to the John Jay College global conference last month (see page 31 of the program).

We don’t know yet when Saul Kassin’s submission to the Hellman court via Amanda Knox’s lawyers was made, or the nature of its impact on judges and jury, if any. Dr Kassin is welcome to try to explain all of Amanda Knox’s other “confessions” as described here. Also to try to explain all of Sollecito’s “confessions” as described here.

Meredith’s case is absolutely riddled with fabricated false myths. 

They are now found by the hundreds on some misleading websites, and they simply make experienced law enforcement and criminal lawyers laugh. 

For example “Police had no good reason to be immediately suspicious of Knox simply because the murder occurred at her residence”.  And “The double-DNA knife is a priori to be disregarded as evidence, because no murderer would retain possession of such a murder weapon.”

One of the most strident and widespread myths is that Amanda Knox’s statements to the Perugian investigators on 5 and 6 November 2007, placing her at the scene of Meredith’s murder, are to be viewed as the products of a genuinely confused mind imbued with a naïve trust of authority figures.

The apparent certainty with which many of Amanda Knox’s most vocal supporters proclaim that Knox’s statements are actual “false confessions” as opposed to deliberate lies is not supported by even a cursory reading of the pertinent academic literature regarding false confessions.

What actually are “false confessions”?

Richard N. Kocsis in his book “Applied Criminal Psychology: A Guide to Forensic Behavioral Sciences” (2009), on pages 193-4 delineates three different kinds of false confessions:

First, a voluntary false confession is one in which a person falsely confesses to a crime absent any pressure or coercion from police investigators….

Coerced-compliant false confessions occur when a person falsely confesses to a crime for some immediate gain and in spite of the conscious knowledge that he or she is actually innocent of the crime….

The final type, identified by Kassin and Wrightsman (1985), is referred to as a coerced-internalized false confession. This occurs when a person falsely confesses to a crime and truly begins to believe that he or she is responsible for the criminal act.

The first problem facing Knox supporters wishing to pursue the false confession angle as a point speaking to her purported innocence is epistemological.

Although much research has been done on this phenomenon in recent years, academics are still struggling to come to terms with a methodology to determine their incidence rate.

The current state of knowledge does not support those making sweeping claims about the likelihood of Knox’s statements being representative of a genuine internalized false confession.

As noted by Richard A. Leo in “False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications” (Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 2009):

Although other researchers have also documented and analyzed numerous false confessions in recent years, we do not know how frequently they occur. A scientifically meaningful incidence rate cannot be determined for several reasons.

First, researchers cannot identify (and thus cannot randomly sample) the universe of false confessions, because no governmental or private organization keeps track of this information.

Second, even if one could identify a set of possibly false confessions, it is not usually possible as a practical matter to obtain the primary case materials (e.g., police reports, pretrial and trial transcripts, and electronic recordings of the interrogations) necessary to evaluate the unreliability of these confessions.

Finally, even in disputed confession cases in which researchers are able to obtain primary case materials, it may still be difficult to determine unequivocally the ground truth (i.e., what really happened) with sufficient certainty to prove the confession false.

In most alleged false-confession cases, it is therefore impossible to remove completely any possible doubts about the confessor’s innocence.

The next problem Knox supporters face is that, even allowing for an inability to establish a priori any likelihood of a given statement being a false confession, the kind of false confession which is usually attributed to Knox is in fact one of the LEAST likely of the three types (Voluntary, Compliant, and Persuaded, as Leo terms the three different categories) to be observed:

Persuaded false confessions appear to occur far less often than compliant false confessions.

Moreover, despite assertions to the contrary, Knox and her statements do not in fact satisfy many of the criteria researchers tend to observe in false confessions, particularly of the Persuaded variety:

“All other things being equal, those who are highly suggestible or compliant are more likely to confess falsely. Individuals who are highly suggestible tend to have poor memories, high levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, and low assertiveness, personality factors that also make them more vulnerable to the pressures of interrogation and thus more likely to confess falsely…

Highly suggestible or compliant individuals are not the only ones who are unusually vulnerable to the pressures of police interrogation. So are the developmentally disabled or cognitively impaired, juveniles, and the mentally ill….

They also tend to occur primarily in high-profile murder cases and to be the product of unusually lengthy and psychologically intense interrogations… ordinary police interrogation is not strong enough to produce a permanent change in the suspect’s beliefs.

Most significantly, there is one essential element of a true Persuaded False Confession which in Knox’s case is highly distinctive:

To convince the suspect that it is plausible, and likely, that he committed the crime, the interrogators must supply him with a reason that satisfactorily explains how he could have done it without remembering it.

This is the second step in the psychological process that leads to a persuaded false confession.

Typically, the interrogator suggests one version or another of a “repressed” memory theory.

He or she may suggest, for example, that the suspect experienced an alcohol- or drug-induced blackout, a “dry” blackout, a multiple personality disorder, a momentary lapse in consciousness, or posttraumatic stress disorder, or, perhaps most commonly, that the suspect simply repressed his memory of committing the crime because it was a traumatic experience for him.

The suspect can only be persuaded to accept responsibility for the crime if he regards one of the interrogators’ explanations for his alleged amnesia as plausible.

Knox did not in fact claim drug or alcohol use as the source of her amnesia - rather, she claimed to have accepted the interrogators’ attribution that this was due to being traumatized by the crime itself, and she offers no other explanation for her selective amnesia:

This is from Knox’s statement to the court in pretrial on 18 October 2008 with Judge Micheli presiding.

Then they started pushing on me the idea that I must have seen something, and forgotten about it. They said that I was traumatized.

Of course, Knox’s initial statement went far beyond being that of being merely a witness to some aspect of Ms. Kercher’s murder, as the interrogators at first seemed to believe was the case.

Rather, her statement placed her at scene of the murder during its actual commission while she did nothing to avert it, which naturally made her a suspect.

In other words, in the absence of any of her other testimony which indicated that she was only a witness to the murder, her own self-admitted rationale for providing a false confession was that she was traumatized by the commission of the murder itself.

Perugia judges will be familiar with all of the above and we can be sure that they brief the lay judges on the remote circumstances and incidences of false confessions.

If I were a Knox defense attorney, I would find it to be a far more fruitful line of argumentation to argue that she was simply lying, rather than claiming the supremely unlikely provision of an actual internalized false confession.


First posted by Fuji on 12 January 2011. Everything in this post applies equally to the ludicrously inaccurate claims of ex FBI “mindhunter” John Douglas in his books and lobbying at the State Department.

Tweet This Post


Thirty previous comments on Fuji’s post of 12 January 2011 can be found here:

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/12 at 01:56 PM | #

Experts are already telling is that they are appalled at Saul Kassin’s damaging sloppiness. That he acted unethically, incompetently and very damagingly.

We started out by acceding him some benefit of the doubt, suspecting he might have simply been hoodwinked, but in light of his grandstanding at the global conference last month, our own opinion of him is now down near the floor.

This take on his intrusion in the case by a reader who works in the same field was posted under the Machine’s post just below:


Dear Saul

I was horrified to read excerpts from a statement, made by yourself, about the Amanda Know case.

It appears you have failed to do the most basic of research regarding this case and have merely spouted rhetoric that has been passed to you by a suspect in the murder and a conglomerate seeking to gain financially from the crime. As a scholar, you have discredited yourself, your qualifications and the establishments at which you studied. I have an MA(hons) in psychology and I specialised in criminology. It is most basic methodology to cross check statements made by suspects, particularly those who show strong sociopathic tendencies alhough this would be impossible to state definitively without proper interviewing and testing.

I would expect a person of your stature to have utmost faith in the researchers who are obviously doing your work for you. I would expect those researchers to cross check personal statements from a suspect with court documents. In this instance these checks have clearly been omitted. I would also expect suspect statements to be cross checked with other witness statements, interviews being carried out personally (or by more competent researchers/ undergraduates?) when possible.

For a man of your experience and understanding of the nature of the beast to have been manipulated by the subject, it bodes poorly for the educational gains expected for your students. I gained my degree from the University of Dundee, I am proud to state that, as we were taught proper investigative research methods. Always using human subjects. I recommend you enquire about a prospectus and further your own studies.

Yours in great disappointment,

Amanda McCartney

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/12 at 04:09 PM | #

Of course the big stumbling block is that people such as the hypothetical Grandma Moses in Pumpkin Center Iowa want to believe that AK is innocent. Therefore they swallow hook line and sinker the lies that the criminal con artist Curt Knox purveys.

My personal view is that Curt Knox is criminally responsible for this perversion of justice. It would be a vast joke if he tried to sue me for defamation, but he doesn’t have the balls for that since by his actions he has proven himself to be just a cowardly little man with an agenda.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 07/13/12 at 04:31 PM | #

Hi Grahame.

In your dreams! Curt Knox is really in no position to be suing anyone. Ted Simon and Robert Barnett must be having conniptions over the mess he has allowed or encouraged Bruce Fischer to create. 

This fiasco with John Jay College might finally make them all take more seriously the adage “when you are in a deep hole, stop digging’.

Now we hear that the Seattle Opera where Curt Knox works as the accountant is $1 million or more in the red, and one reason for that might be that his presence there is turning off some of the usual donors.

As to whether Curt Knox has committed crimes, some are concluding that his horrific treatment of Edda over child support in Amanda’s first decade should have triggered a prison sentence.

Had it done so Amanda might be a less disturbed person, and Meredith might still be alive today.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/12 at 06:56 PM | #

I think we can take the notion that there were any submissions regarding false confessions to the Hellmann court with a pinch of salt.

This would have to by way of challengeable expert (if in fact this topic is a matter of expertise) evidence and the only additional expert evidence received was, as we know, the C&V report.

On the other hand Hellmann buys into the factually unsupported concept of a traumatized Amanda Knox being grilled for hours on end to explain everything away, and one wonders where on earth that came from.

Posted by James Raper on 07/13/12 at 07:55 PM | #

It is particularly interesting that Knox does not herself claim to have felt traumatized but merely that someone else suggested this and she thought that was plausible. I mean, I ask you! Again, the Hellmann Court ignored the accused’s own evidence and hypothesized and accepted this condition as fact.

Amanda saw the trauma suggestion as a plausible ruse to buy herself time and, hopefully,to be released. She wasn’t to know that both she and Raffele would end up being detained and kept apart so that they would not be able to get their stories straight again as quickly as possible.

Posted by James Raper on 07/13/12 at 08:28 PM | #

A note on James Raper who commented above to our many new readers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice here in Manhattan.

James is one of over 100 lawyers who frequent this site who consider that the case against Knox and Sollecito is a strong one. He posted this much-praised overview in Powerpoint: 

We dont know of ANY lawyer now who is prepared to argue that Knox and Sollecito were framed or are innocent of the murder. Not one lawyer has taken James up on this challenge.

Feel free to learn, you guys. Quite a surprise to find John Jay College is so far behind the curve. Didnt ANYONE challenge Saul Kassin’s claims in the keynote at the recent conference?

And what now are you going to say to all those who attended? Apologize to therm and those Kassin impugned in Italy? Offer a retraction? Join us in saying this is a strong case?

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/13/12 at 11:20 PM | #

This science is in its infancy at best. Knox is not cognitively impaired, a juvenile, nor developmentally disabled. If she refused to accept the police explanation that drugs and alcohol caused her memory deficit, and yet on the other hand she tacitly agreed with the interrogators that she was “traumatized” by the crime, that’s like an admission she was at the crime. How could she be traumatized by a crime she wasn’t at?

Then she tantalized police with a duplicitous dreamstate disclosure that suggested she was in the kitchen while Patrick murdered Meredith, all in vague maybes for easy deniability later. Why would she suggest something like that? She used this fictional vision along with supposed memory lapses to escape telling the truth.

Posted by Hopeful on 07/16/12 at 12:33 AM | #

Hi Hopeful

My take on this is that the more Curt Knox does, the more he digs himself in deeper. The two simple paragraphs you wrote cut through all the lies and and expose it for what it is. A murder because of jealousy.

Amanda Knox tortured raped and murdered Meredith Kercher with the help of Raphael Sollecito. Guide was just there as a petty criminal and ran away at the first sign of trouble.

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 07/16/12 at 04:49 PM | #

By Fuji at the end of the post. “Perugia judges will be familiar with all of the above and we can be sure that they brief the lay judges on the remote circumstances and incidences of false confessions.”

Judge Massei, an experienced criminal trial judge, does seem to have warned his jury.

And Judge Hellman, an inexperienced criminal trial judge, seems not to.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/18/12 at 02:31 PM | #

Hello Peter

As depraved and cruel as it is, I feel it is necessary to keep the entire scene of the murder in the public eye. I refer rather obviously to the last link in your latest comment under the previous article below.

In these day of anesthetized news reports and warnings of graphic content particularly on such stations as CNN the full violence of the rape attack torture and murder of Meredith should be kept on the public horizon.

Of course I use those four descriptive words at some length not just here but elsewhere in an attempt to remind people the abject depraved sickness of these two murderers Amanda Knox and Raphael Sollicito.

As always thank you so much for your, and others too numerous to mention, continued efforts on Merediths behalf.

Cheers Grahame

Posted by Grahame Rhodes on 07/18/12 at 05:13 PM | #

Thanks Grahame.

That presentation by the federal crime scene reconstructors took a whole day - but was behind closed doors, at the request of Meredith’s family (as were many other parts of the trial considered sensitive and hard to take).

Italian media worked hard to reconstruct the reconstruction for their viewers and readers but of course that fell short of the raw horror of the real thing.

We were the only ones to post an English translation. The Rome reporter group, uisually so good, failed Meredith here.

The Massei judges and jury had to sit through all the tough raw passges.

The Hellman judges and jury had to sit through NONE AT ALL.

This helps to explain the bizarre Hellman verdict - and why Dr Galati has appealed against its illegal scope.

It also explains why Knox is given few breaks by the Italian public and Sollecito none at all, whereas here in the US at least some give them a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 07/18/12 at 06:22 PM | #

First hearing in Cassazione 25th March 2013.

Posted by ncountryside on 07/19/12 at 01:11 PM | #
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Where next:

Click here to return to The Top Of The Front Page

Or to next entry Increasingly The Good Lawyers Are On One Planet And The PR Shills Are On Another

Or to previous entry Saul Kassin: An Example Of How The Knox Campaign Is Misleading American Experts And Audiences