Vanderbilt Law Review


I. A. Spanogle

First Page



It is now well settled that involuntary confessions must be excluded from evidence in all criminal trials in state courts. It has been difficult, however, to distinguish a voluntary confession from an involuntary one, because the term "involuntary" is not well defined. This lack of definition, which creates great problems for state trial and appellate courts in attempting to apply the rule to individual cases, has, in turn, stemmed from a lack of understanding of the reasons for excluding involuntary confessions. The United States Supreme Court has handed down thirty-four coerced confession cases, holding confessions admissible in some factual situations and inadmissible in others. The difficulties encountered by the state courts in defining" involuntary" have not been due to inconsistent decisions by the Court in individual cases, but rather to the absence of any clearly enunciated explanation of the purpose the Court seeks to achieve, or of the interests it seeks to protect, by excluding such evidence.' The failure of the state courts to understand the underlying rationale has led many of them to attempt to color-match case fact situations, or to turn the whole matter over to the jury with the most general of instructions. It has even led to calls to abandon the "involuntary" terminology as incapable of explaining the Court's present standard.