Just recently, police caught (G) a 22-year-old German of Afghan descent who is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack on an orthodox rabbi in Frankfurt. A few days before that, police arrested a 25-year-old who stands accused of raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl from Königswinter. In the last case, the police asked hundreds of men to voluntarily give authorities a DNA sample to compare with evidence from the crime scene and got a hit for a 25-year-old Czech immigrant.
What strikes me is that in both of these cases, the accused parties have already confessed to the crimes (according to news reports.) And, in fact, it’s quite common for people to confess to violent crimes in Germany. In both of these cases, it appears that the evidence against the defendants was very strong (in the rabbi case, the defendant had described the attack on an Internet forum). However, it’s not unusual for American defendants to refuse to admit involvement in such crimes, even when the evidence seems to be overwhelming. A lot of them do confess, of course, but I’ve read numbers that suggest that confessions to violent crimes are much more common in Germany than in the United States.
The question is: why? There are a couple of hypothesis I might mention:
1. Skilled interrogation.
2. No death penalty, no life in prison sentences, and a rehabilitation-oriented criminal justice system (thus, much less to lose).
3. Near-certainty of reduction in sentence in return for confession.
4. Less adversarial criminal-justice system. Any U.S. defense lawyer worth her salt will tell all suspects never to say a word to the police for any reason without a lawyer (see #2, above for why). Many German lawyers will do so, but not all.
5. Danger of spending long periods in pre-trial confinement (desire for speedy trial).
Those are a few of my hypotheses, some of which are more convincing than others. Feel free to add your own in comments.