True Confessions

Let’s say that you’re a detective. You’re sitting at the station one day when a man comes in to confess to a murder. Now, this isn’t a murder that has yet been reported to the police, so you listen patiently as he outlines everything he did, as he recounts how he tied his neighbor up and stabbed him in the chest. You get the information about the location and order a squad car sent out. They investigate, and—ta da! There is a body in the exact same circumstances recounted to you by said confessor, whom you promptly arrest awaiting further investigation into the matter.

But now let’s say that the man came to the station and confessed to shooting and beheading his neighbor. You send out a squad car, and what is found is, in fact, a man who has been tied up and stabbed. He still has his head, and no bullets wounds are there to be found. In this case, you do not arrest your confessor for the crime but rather hold him for further interviews and, possibly, a mental evaluation.

A confession has to correlate to the crime for it to be considered valid. Police aren’t usually in the habit of discounting the material evidence because the perpetrator-wannabe’s story is more personally satisfying. Of course, sometimes it could be that someone comes in to confess to an unreported crime, and, due to a discrete set of circumstances, the police are not able to investigate immediately. In such a case, they would likely hold this person over until such point as they can dispatch officers to take a look at the alleged crime scene.

Now, more often, the police find the crime scene and do a thorough analysis of it before fielding a confession, but this brings me to my point. Myths of creation constitute confessions to particular deeds. “Yes, officer, I created the world, and I did it in six days, starting with light, and I made all of life along the following timeline.” Said confession being the only one in circulation for the longest time, many folks believed it, but an actual investigation into the circumstances of the deed have resulted in enough evidence that we can now discard it. This fact upsets many fine people, who insist that they are more likely to believe the confessor than the actual professional investigators, but no actual court of law would convict this confessor of anything more than wasting police time and resources. Sure, fantastical theories of some diabolical mastermind abound—how do you know that he didn’t come and plant those bones all over the place in order to throw you off the scent? But is there a reason that we should presuppose his presence? Unless our investigation provides the evidence of his existence and involvement in affairs, why should we not discount him?

If the deed was done as has been claimed, then the confession and material evidence should align. That’s all I mean to say here. And so far, none of the many people who have come in to confess the deed have provided a story that fits with the facts. The credit (or blame) remains to be claimed.

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