How camera angle can make a jury more likely to convict

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2021 | Criminal Law

As technology becomes more and more advanced, we now have the ability to edit and manipulate photos, video and even audio to create a certain illusion. This has led to a surge in fake and misleading content on the internet – making it difficult for the layperson to distinguish fact from fiction.

However, researchers have found that even when a video is unaltered in any way, the simple decision about where to place the camera can have an influence on the viewer’s understanding of the situation. This is a phenomenon known as camera perspective bias.

Videotaped confessions

A study found that in police interrogation videos that resulted in a confession, the positioning of the camera affected the jurors’ impression of the legitimacy of the confession. Certain camera angles led jurors to believe that confessions were voluntary, while others gave the jurors greater insight into whether the interrogator was forcing the suspect into a confession.

When the video was filmed from a side angle – where both the suspect and the interrogator were visible in profile – participants were more likely to notice when the suspect’s confession involved threats or coercion from the interrogator. However, in cases where the suspect was filmed head-on and the interrogator was filmed from behind, participants in the study were more likely to have the perception that the confession the suspect gave was voluntary. This was the case even when there was audio conveying threats or force.

Wrongful convictions

This finding can have serious implications on a suspect’s likelihood of being convicted, even if they’re innocent. In fact, roughly 25% of individuals exonerated through DNA evidence by the Innocence Project were found to have made a false confession or falsely incriminating statement while under interrogation.

This study is important because it provides valuable insight into how to remove camera perspective bias from police interrogation videos. In cases where such videos are filmed from an angle that creates bias, an experienced criminal defence lawyer can also use the findings of this study to create a stronger defence for their client.