Caffeine induced confession?

My post this week is in response to the article Melissa posted about the murder trial caffeine consumption.  If I had read this article a year ago I would have thought that the defendant’s claims were ridiculous, but last year I took some forensic psychology classes and ended up doing a lot of work on false confessions.  Although Smith’s story sounds a little strange, I think it is definitely plausible.  There are many different types of false confessions but the one that applies most directly to this case is the coerced-internalized confession, which occurs when the suspect comes to believe they are actually guilty because they no longer trust their own memory.  This mistrust can happen in many ways, the most relevant being if a suspect is convinced that a drug or alcohol induced blackout has prevented their memory of the crime.  Smith claimed to experience a blackout after dropping his kids off at school.  I’m not sure exactly how caffeine overdoses work or if they can indeed produce blackouts, but I wouldn’t be surprised if caffeine, like other drugs, could produce this instability.  Along with being mentally unstable as result of the caffeine, Smith’s lawyer claimed that he was sleep deprived.  This could severely affect willingness to confess; there are numerous documented cases in which suspects who know they are innocent confess just in order to be allowed to go home and sleep.  This is often related to aversive interrogation techniques.  Even though false confessions sound really bizarre (why would someone confess to something they didn’t do?), research has shown they happen surprisingly frequently and Smith’s case could easily be one of those instances.

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