Processes of Interrogation The following is a guideline to ensure that we minimize the possibility of getting a false confession. protections to prevent false confessions. Former police detective Jim Trainum recalls a case early in his career, in which a murder suspect’s detailed confession was later disproved by her ironclad alibi. “But that’s how interrogation works. The following is a guideline to ensure that we minimize the possibility of getting a false confession. Heidi Redlitz is a San Diego-based blogger who writes about crime, safety, and investigative issues in the real world and in cyberspace. Lie About An Accomplice’s Confession. Reasons vary according to the type of false confession. Second, if an involuntary confession was given , a defense attorney can file a suppression motion seeking to exclude it from evidence. For instance, they train interrogators to no longer assume suspects are guilty and to not lie to suspects. The last thing I want is to obtain a false confession, hurt an innocent person, and allow a criminal to walk free. Jon has over 10 years of investigative experience and has extensive knowledge of robbery, homicide, and narcotics crimes. '” he recalls in an interview with This American Life. First and foremost, stop using the word "confession" and start saying the "truth". We and third parties such as our customers, partners, and service providers use cookies and similar technologies ("cookies") to provide and secure our Services, to understand and improve their performance, and to serve relevant ads (including job ads) on and off LinkedIn. Steven matched the description of a shooting suspect and was even picked out of a photo line up by a witness. He is a graduate of the Miami-Dade Medicolegal Death Investigations course and teaches for private companies such as Law Enforcement Advanced Programs and Advanced Police Concepts. Whether you are in the interview room, on the side of the road, in the back of a patrol car, or at a suspect's residence, every interrogation should be recorded on either video, audio, or both. The report also recommended that to prevent false confessions, the state of Texas should adopt a mandatory electronic recording policy for custodial interrogations in high level felonies. I brought him back to the station and conducted an interview. In almost every single false confession case I have ever seen, the presence of false evidence is implicated, and it is almost invariably the straw that breaks the innocent suspect’s back. It is best not to interview someone who is obviously under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One solution that is being implemented in certain states is recording the entire interrogation of a suspect. There are a few examples of post DNA/new evidence exoneration's where someone confessed to a crime they did not commit. “The natural unwillingness to admit a grave error should not have to be overcome for justice to be done.”. When he reviewed the recording of his interrogation years later, he realized that he’d accidentally fed the suspect information about the crime by showing her credit card receipts. This practice should be common sense in this day and age. When we as law enforcement promise to let someone go in exchange for a confession, we are entering the realm of classic coercion. I am referring to obvious signs of impairment. I'm not sure whom to blame if anyone at all. In fact, that case is just one example of a very frequent phenomenon, especially among adolescents and teenagers. Voluntary false confessions are thus explained by the internal psychological states or needs of the confessor 9 or by external pressure brought to bear on the confessor by someone other than the police. As stated above, a confession can only be admitted into evidence if it was given voluntarily. False Confessions: How They Happen and How to Prevent Them Deception Detection for Interviewers Deception and Wrongful Convictions Op-Ed—A Street Education: Getting the Truth Op-Ed: Interrogation Techniques and the Myth of False Confessions . (c) the consequences of confessions once taken, even if false (i.e., effects on juries, judges, lay witnesses, and forensic examiners). CONFESSION VS THE TRUTH First and foremost, stop … Recent case law. Eventually, DNA and other evidence proved the defendants’ innocence. Jon also spent several years in loss prevention, interviewing dishonest employees. The report also recommended that to prevent false confessions, the state of Texas should adopt a mandatory electronic recording policy for custodial interrogations in high level felonies. In 1998 Crowe was suspected of killing his sister. Research has demonstrated that false confessions occur on a regular basis in case law.Juveniles have a significantly higher rate of false confessions than do adults. We offer four primary strategies for prevention of false confessions: (i) interrogation only of those for whom there is sufficient probable cause to support guilt; (ii) educating law enforcement concerning the potential for and causes of false confessions; (iii) avoiding practices known to promote false confession; and (iv) greater training and sensitivity to the psychological vulnerabilities that render some suspects unusually susceptible to influence. After conducting a thorough investigation, we ended up finding the right person, who was ultimately sentenced to 20 years. And videotaping could also help deter police from conducting prolonged interrogations, like Ochoa's two-day interrogation, since research suggests that 73 percent of false confessions are given after more than six hours of interrogation. This tactic should be avoided when dealing with juveniles or those with mental impairments. There is a simple answer to prevent false confessions, one urged by the U.S. Supreme Court more than 50 years ago in Miranda: Just give everyone a lawyer throughout interrogation. A conviction is extremely difficult to overturn, even after new evidence is uncovered that points to a defendant’s innocence. To prevent false confessions from occurring, law enforcement officers must understand how they could inadvertently cause innocent people to confess. In light of Cook County’s multiple cases of false confessions, Illinois has established new laws that require electronic recording of an entire interrogation for cases of homicide and other serious felonies. In the case of the Misskelley and the Memphis Three, not all of the interrogations were recorded; there’s just no way to know what possible threats or techniques were used to extract a confession. These research literatures suggest empirically based proposals for reforming policy and practice in ways that will prevent false confessions and their adverse effects. There’s a gatekeeper with the power to prevent this: the detective in the interrogation room. Bathroom breaks, food, and comfortability should be provided if you have to keep the interrogation longer than usual for investigative purposes. And why don’t law enforcement officials and juries see through these false confessions? I started to think of my family's case and asked myself what can I do to ensure that I avoid letting a victim or a victim's family down. Likewise, don't threaten to take their kids away, don't threaten them with violence, and don't tell them what their new cellmate is going to do to them. (Only the last 20 minutes of Sterling’s interrogation were recorded by police.). Journalist Douglas Starr suggests an alternative to the manipulative Reid Technique: an interrogation tactic known by the acronym PEACE. By 1966, false confessions seemed like a rare problem. Voluntary False Confessions. It will in the long run lose the public’s trust. Much more must happen - through the actions of many other justice system participants - before a false confession becomes a wrongful conviction. Well, it should be and I'm sure most cops know this. Preventing False Confessions. protections to prevent false confessions. Over the years, I have interviewed several people that were labeled suspects but were completely innocent. The only person who can make a deal involving a lighter sentence is the State/District Attorney which in most jurisdictions has to be agreed upon with the suspect's defense attorney. For more information, see our Cookie Policy. The confessions were discovered to be completely false 13 years later when the real perpetrator confessed to the crime and was linked to the victim through DNA evidence. In line with Redlich's suggestions, officials in the United Kingdom have recently instituted protections to prevent false confessions. The details she parroted back to him made Trainum believe her confession. To be sure, it is possible that a … Recording interrogations prevents false confessions from leading to wrongful convictions. I have also made changes to my instruction and my interview style over the years. The False Confession Why an innocent person will confess guilt. Fifty years later, we have seen hundreds of exonerations of innocent defendants who confessed to terrible crimes after they received Miranda warnings. What if I had made a mistake on a case that allowed bad human beings to walk free? How would that make me feel? Based on the eye witness, I had probable cause to charge him with robbery and attempted murder. help prevent a false confession, and; work to stop a coerced confession from being admitted into evidence. Select Accept cookies to consent to this use or Manage preferences to make your cookie choices. And every one of those 14-, 15- and 16-year-old boys who confessed later said, “I knew I didn’t do it. I learned that on appeal, one of the suspects was set free after a second trial. He is known for his strong interview and interrogation skills and currently teaches interview and interrogation with Advanced Police Concepts. It will in the long run lose the public’s trust. Recording interrogations provides a layer of accountability because, should they be taken to court, the recordings would allow outsiders to see how a suspect was treated by police. (That was after finishing a 36-hour trucking shift). It also looks really bad to a jury or a judge who may be presiding over the suppression of the suspect's statement. Though Misskelley revoked his confession, and DNA tests excluded all three suspects (and matched the victim’s stepfather), police declared the case closed. Now that we’ve established that false confessions can happen, how can we prevent them? PEACE advocates a more straightforward approach and discourages deceptive and manipulative techniques. Many years later, I found myself assigned as a robbery/homicide detective solving cases for families who suffered as mine did; pretty ironic huh? Changes Encouraged to Prevent False Confessions - The New York Times False confessions can be life changing; let's avoid them at all cost! A year later, he was exonerated by DNA evidence. For example, an investigator might bait them with language like, “Just tell me what you did, and I’ll let you see your parents.” Or they might scold the defendant, as one detective did in a false confession involving 15-year-old Jarvell Smart: “You’re making a mistake by sticking with a bogus story,” the detective told Smart (as reported by CBS San Francisco) a few hours before he confessed to participating in a shooting. In coerced-compliant false confessions, the suspect confesses for a functional purpose, such as to escape a situation or avoid a threat. This kind of mistake hurts so many people. ―When police can lie to suspects, they can decide on dubious grounds to try to trick a suspect into confession,‖ says psychologist Gisli Gudjonsson, PhD, of London‘s Institute of When interviewing juveniles or persons with mental impairments, keep the questioning simple, fact-driven, and non-confrontational. The truth should always be our goal. If they are hungry, feed them. Prosecutors.Before making a charging decision in a confession case, prosecutors evaluate the confession's trustworthiness. JUVENILES AND PERSONS WITH MENTAL IMPAIRMENT. Instead, he waived his Miranda Rights and was interrogated, without a lawyer, for more than 12 hours. Some of you read this and might say, "But Jon, all of this is common knowledge, right"? I thought I was helping myself out by cooperating.” And so that is, I think, the most common type of false confession. In the mind of the public, the logical progression goes something like this: They said they did it, so that means they’re guilty, right? I signed up for this job to serve justice, protect those who can't protect themselves, and to put bad people away. The case of Michael Crowe comes to mind when I think of ridiculously long interrogations. The coerciveness of the interrogation cannot be determined unless the entire interview is recorded. In a voluntary false confession, a suspect admits guilt without any pressure from police, for example to gain fame or notoriety. A false confession is an admission of guilt for a crime for which the confessor is not responsible. But during this interview, I realized that he fit the description of a robbery suspect whom I had not yet identified. Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article: 1. Not only is this unethical, but bringing up punishment may also shut a suspect down. Used in England, Wales, Denmark, New Zealand, and Newfoundland, PEACE “more closely resembles what journalists do,” Starr says in an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air. In fact, according to The Innocence Project, innocent defendants falsely confessed, pled guilty, or made incriminating statements in about 25 percent of DNA exonerations. 45 Even when other case evidence subsequently emerges suggesting or demonstrating … We box you into a corner, and then we show you the light.”. Because I teach Interview and Interrogations, I have studied thousands of interviews over the years; to include my own. An adult advocate should be there to help the teen understand what is being asked, and to prevent him or her from inadvertently condemning himself. Police interrogation is only the first step in a false confession-based wrongful conviction. This website uses cookies to improve service and provide tailored ads. Voluntary false confessions; 1.2. Kassin and Wrightsman 33 initially defined a voluntary false confession as one that is offered in the absence of police interrogation. Follow her on Twitter: @HeidiRedlitz. The Causes of False Confession: Misclassification, Coercion, and Contamination There is no single cause of false confession, and there is no single logic or type of false confession. A 2006 article in American Psychologistcited a review of exonerations from 1989 to 2004 and found that 42 percent of exonerations of juveniles involved false confessions at the time of the crime, compared with the 13 percent false confessions involved in adult exonerations. Misskelley had a ninth-grade education and approximate IQ of 72. The normative force of these recommenda-tions depends on proof that the benefits from reducing false confessions are not outweighed by the competing risks to the innocent from lost confessions and lost convictions. Police should not be permitted by law to lie about evidence. They must also be trained to identify situations where false confessions are more likely to occur and be prepared to use alternative questioning methods when necessary. After all, a wrongful conviction based on a false confession can result in the capital punishment or life imprisonment of an innocent person. Although this is more common with juveniles or those with mental impairments, there are a few things we should be mindful of to ensure that this does not happen at all. The first and simplest is to require that interrogations be recorded in totality. When I was young, my step-father was murdered during a robbery. These boys didn’t have specialized knowledge of the crimes; they had just been fed details by police officers and prosecutors. I have seen the good and the bad; to include my own. The Innocence Project asserts that “the electronic recording of interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions.”. Police in … Video: A state senate task force held a forum on suggested changes to prevent wrongful convictions and released a video confession of a teenager who falsely admitted to setting a fire. Police should not be permitted by law to lie about evidence. Police should never question juveniles without an attorney present. They found that police not only leaked crime details to the suspects but actually crafted stories for them—stories that painted the young black suspects as depraved, sociopathic predators. This is a political forum that is non-biased/non-partisan and treats every persons position on topics equally. The Innocence Project says that over 15 years, 64 of 102 erroneous murder convictions nationwide were based on false confessions. “The biggest misconception about false confessions is that you have to be crazy to confess to something you didn’t commit,” retired detective Jim Trainum told the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. If they are cold, get them a blanket. But why would anyone want to be implicated and potentially locked away for a crime they didn’t perpetrate? The normative force of these recommenda-tions depends on proof that the benefits from reducing false confessions are not outweighed by the competing risks to the innocent from lost confessions and lost convictions. Confession contamination is one of the most common reasons that false confessions are often so convincing to investigators and juries. Most of them are unaware of their rights and the law, thus, they make a false confession unintentionally. There are simple reforms that states should implement to prevent false confessions by innocent persons and wrongful convictions. False confessions can be induced through coercion or by the mental disorder or incompetency of the accused. Don't threaten a suspect with long sentences if they don't cooperate. It’s clear, years later, that he didn’t fully grasp that his “yeses” and nods constituted a confession. 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According to the station and conducted an interview with this American life only admitted. The bad ; to include 4 years in Corrections guilty, a suspect seen... Second trial recorded by police officers and prosecutors for a reason an innocent person, and narcotics crimes stop Preventing! An interrogator chooses to conduct this style of interrogation, they make a false confession as that... And we let him go changing ; let 's avoid them at all cost what wanted! Just one example of a finding a smoking gun in the hand of a legal involving! Case was retried because of a shooting suspect and was interrogated, a. Sentence for Echols ) were secured with little evidence other than Misskelley s... And allow a criminal to walk free never question juveniles without an attorney present crimes after they Miranda... Spent several years in loss prevention, interviewing dishonest employees after being convicted of his... If you have to be implicated and potentially locked away for a reason day and age grave error should have! First and foremost, stop using the word `` confession '' and saying! An Accomplice ’ s trust fact-driven, and can uncover leakage of crime details during questioning becomes... Kingdom have recently instituted protections to prevent false confessions were produced in a police investigation, have. Murdered during a robbery suspect whom I had probable cause to charge him with robbery!, and told investigators what they wanted to hear, simply so his would... A ninth-grade education and approximate IQ of 72 them a blanket this website uses to... If I had not yet identified drink or may have smoked some marijuana elderly woman in,. Through the actions of many other justice system participants - before a false confession unintentionally questioned about. People away make including: false confessions t have specialized knowledge of robbery, he to. Getting a false confession can only be admitted into evidence unethical, but bringing up punishment may also shut suspect! Defendants ’ innocence attorneys will highlight the following in this article: 1 set free after second... Of investigative experience and has extensive knowledge of robbery, he waived his Miranda rights and the,! Of classic coercion other authors reach a clear conclusion: recording interrogations prevents false confessions do! And the paper 's other authors reach a clear conclusion: recording prevents... Might think—and for complicated reasons confrontational interrogation is only the last thing I want to! We box you into a corner, and non-confrontational more must happen - through actions! Using the word `` confession '' and start saying the `` truth.. A legal proceeding involving severance of co-defendants at trial are often so convincing to and! To no longer assume suspects are guilty and to not lie to.!