Amy D. Ronner

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Part II summarizes seminal United States Supreme Court confession cases. The Court has a longstanding hate-love relationship with confessions: while it believes that such evidence can valuably assist the truth-finding process, it has at times questioned its reliability and mistrusted coercive methods used for extraction. The Court's express goal under the Due Process Clause and Miranda v. Arizona is to ensure that confessions are the product of a free and rational choice. Although the Sixth Amendment and accompanying case law explicitly aim to protect the integrity of the adversarial process, freedom and rationality also (but more subtly) undergird the reasoning. When it comes to confessions, the Court's modus operandi entails fixating on externalities, formulating safeguards, and regulating conduct. The focus tends to be on things peripheral to the confessant: typically relevant factors include the conduct of state actors, coercive techniques, or deliberate elicitation tactics.

When it comes to confession, Dostoevsky is worlds apart, and Part III hones in on those striking differences. While the law's focus is on external forces, Dostoevsky essentially relegates those forces to the realm of irrelevance or at least sees them as least problematic. In his fiction, confession, an elusive phenomenon of infinite variety, pertains solely to the individual soul and psyche. For him, by its very nature, confession is divorced from free will and rationality; there exists in all Homo sapiens an inner-coercive drive to divulge a slew of true or false secrets. Dostoevsky, moreover, pokes holes in the notion that confessions can and should play a role in criminal prosecutions. For him, confession can minister to only one process: it is an incipient step in an individual's spiritual evolution, and interrogators, judges, or juries simply have no business meddling in that ineffability.