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False Confession Poster

Florsheim Lecture in Ethics – False Confessions

Thursday Sep 12 | 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

“False Confessions and Testimonial Injustice”
Professor Jennifer Lackey
Wayne and Elizabeth Jones Professor of Philosophy
Northwestern University

In the criminal justice system, confessions have long been considered the “gold standard” in evidence. An immediate problem arises for this gold standard, however, when the prevalence of false confessions is taken into account. Since 1989, there have been 353 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States, and 28% of these involved false confessions. Moreover, false confessions involve everything from minor infractions to detailed accounts of violent crimes.
In this paper, I take a close look at false confessions in connection with the phenomenon of testimonial injustice. I show that false confessions provide a unique and compelling challenge to the current conceptual tools used to understand this epistemic wrong. In particular, I argue that we cannot make sense of the unjust ways in which false confessions function in our criminal justice system by focusing exclusively on speakers getting less credibility than they deserve. I conclude that the way we conceive of testimonial injustice requires a significant expansion to include what I call agential testimonial injustice—where an unwarranted credibility excess is afforded to speakers when their epistemic agency has been denied or subverted in the obtaining of their testimony. At the same time, I show that work by legal scholars and social scientists can benefit by viewing the practices that produce confessions through the lens of this expanded notion, and hence that epistemological tools can shed light on issues with enormous moral and practical consequences.

Moudy North

Moudy North
2805 South University Dr.
Fort Worth, TX 76129

About AddRan College of Liberal Arts

Florsheim Lecture in Ethics – False Confessions
Mission To advance life-long learning and discovery in the humanities and social sciences and to develop critical thinking, analytical, and communication skills that prepare students for successful careers in our global society.  Vision To become a liberal arts college nationally recognized for innovative learning and critical inquiry that enhances our environment, improves the human condition, and develops ethical leaders.

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Beth Philp


Phone: 817-257-7370