The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently held that the defense is NOT permitted to call an expert witness who would testify about “false confessions.”  Social scientists have spent a number of years studying a phenomenon known as the “false confession.”  

A false confession is when someone who the police interrogates confesses to committing a crime that person did not actually commit.  According to social scientists, the community believes that the years of research have revealed certain people who are vulnerable to false confessions during police interrogation.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s decision, which held that the defendant, who was charged with murder, should be allowed to call an expert witness to testify about the alleged false confession in his case.  The majority decision for the Supreme Court stated that whether a confession is false should be left to the common sense of the jurors and not done through a “battle of the experts.”

The dissent opinion stated that the decision to allow expert testimony regarding false confessions should be left to the discretion of the trial judge.