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Sleep-deprived people may confess to crimes they did not commit

Texas residents interested in the justice system might like to know about the role sleep plays in acquiring confessions. A study that has been published in a National Academy of Sciences journal indicates that fatigued individuals are more likely than rested individuals to sign false confessions.

The Michigan State University study found that those who were awake for 24 hours are 4.5 times more likely to sign a false confession compared to those who had gotten eight hours of sleep. While evidence has suggested that interrogating tired, fatigued suspects takes place often, a representative of the study reported that this is the first piece of direct evidence that links false confessions and sleep deprivation.

These findings could change the interrogation practices the authorities use, and this information could eventually help lower the estimated 15 to 25 percent of wrongful convictions that are thought to arise from false confessions. The study involved 88 participants who were told not to hit the "escape" key on a keyboard, and participants were asked to sign a statement at the end saying that they had hit the key. Half of the participants stayed awake the night before being given this statement, and half of these people signed a confession saying they hit a key they did not hit. The other half of the participants received eight hours of rest, and 18 percent of these people also signed the confession.

This study shows that more than just guilt or innocence might influence what happens when a person has been handed criminal charges. As such, criminal defense attorneys will advise their clients not to sign or make any statements without the presence of counsel.

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