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Aggressive police questioning

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Aggressive police questioning of a weak-willed suspect can produce an occasional false confession, but experts now believe that six men in a single case, and four in another, confessed to group crimes they did not commit, even though some described their roles in vivid detail. Recent DNA evidence in a 1989 Beatrice, Neb., murder case implicated only a seventh man, and similar evidence in a 1997 Norfolk, Va., murder case implicated only a fifth man, who insists he acted alone. (Governors in both states are currently mulling pardons for the men.) It is still possible that the six, or the four, are guilty as charged and that the DNA was left in completely separate attacks on the victims, but the more likely explanation, say psychologists, is that people with low self-esteem or mental problems, or who are drug- or alcohol-addled, are more easily convinced of fantasy.

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