Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Donald Blom: A Repeat Sex Offender Finally Stopped

The Confession Collapses

Blom soon recanted, claiming he made a false confession because of the stress of solitary confinement and the "ten medications" he was taking. He said he'd been hallucinating and had believed that his only way to escape the cell was to tell authorities what they wanted to hear. But he'd not been in his right mind, he now claimed, and had not known what he was saying. The plea deal was rescinded, and attorneys on both sides prepared for a trial. However, allegedly at his behest, the defense team had already spoken to the press, reporting that Blom was guilty and that the remains from the fire pit were Katie's.

There are different types of false confessions, and sometimes people just confess spontaneously to something they did not do. It's usually in response to a high profile case where fame is a possibility, but it may also occur to protect someone or to expiate one's own sense of guilt for other things. Some people anticipate that the interrogation will be too stressful so they give in quickly to the pressure to confess, but there's another type of phenomenon that can occur: people may internalize assertions of guilt from the police and come to believe that they committed a crime in which they had no part.

False confessions commonly occur under certain conditions: sleep deprivation, feigned friendship, isolating the suspect by refusing a lawyer, using leading questions, excessive use of threats, exposure to graphic crime scene photos, and the suggestion that law enforcement already has evidence against the person. Also, if promises are made contingent on the person talking, he or she may do so just to relieve the stress, and in that moment the consequences may not occur to them.

The characteristics of those most likely to offer up a false confession include youth, a low IQ, mental illness or confusion, a high degree of suggestibility, a trusting nature, low self-esteem, high anxiety, and poor memory. Some of these traits are exacerbated by the fatigue of lengthy interrogations, and anxiety may become confused with guilt.

Whether Blom had actually confessed falsely or recanted falsely would now be for a jury to decide. Blom was headed to trial.

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