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Purpose

The present study investigated whether mock jurors judged the coerciveness of an interrogation differently based on whether or not a confession led to the discovery of corroborating evidence. Specifically, we examined whether jurors were likely to overlook tactics they would otherwise find objectionable if they were confident that the defendant was guilty.

Method

A 2 × 2 between-subjects design was used to examine the influence of interrogation techniques (low pressure or high pressure) and level of guilt corroboration (uncorroborated or corroborated) on mock jurors' verdicts and ratings of an interrogation. Two hundred and two jury-eligible participants read a case summary, watched a realistic video recording of an interrogation that included a confession, and read prosecution and defence closing arguments. Participants then decided on a verdict and answered a series of questions about the interrogation and confession.

Results

The interrogation was rated as significantly less coercive when the confession led to the discovery of corroborating evidence than when corroborating evidence was not found. Furthermore, participants who viewed a high-pressure interrogation rated it as less coercive when the confession was corroborated by additional evidence than when it was not. There was no difference between the corroborated and uncorroborated conditions for the low-pressure interrogation.

Conclusions

The present findings support the idea that more extreme tactics may be considered less coercive when they produce a greater certainty that the defendant is guilty. The results can be explained in terms of self-presentation theories.