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SEARCH INVESTIGATOR TIPS Making a Murderer: the Reid Technique and Juvenile Interrogations
January - February 2016 (click here for normal version)
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In the Netflix program, Making a Murderer, which examines the conviction of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey for the sexual assault and murder of Teresa Halbach, there is a reference made by Brendan Dassey's defense attorney, Mark Fremgen, that "the police are taught a technique by Reid in Chicago to elicit confessions, not get to the truth." Clearly Mr. Fremgen is misinformed or is intentionally misstating the facts.We state the following in our book, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions :
The purpose of an interrogation is to learn the truth.There are a number of possible outcomes of a successful interrogation other than obtaining a confession from the guilty party. Some of these are: (1) The subject is identified as innocent; (2) The subject did not commit the offense under investigation but lied about some aspect of the investigation (motive, alibi, access, etc.); or (3) The subject did not commit the offense under investigation but knows who did.As to the suggestion that the investigator is not interested in learning the truth, in our interrogation training materials and books we spend a considerable amount of time describing what to look for as a possible indication of innocence during the interrogation process. For example, as early as the 3rd edition of Criminal Interrogation and Confessions published 30 years ago in 1986, we stated the following with respect to recognizing an innocent suspect's denials:
" An innocent suspect, as a rule, will respond to the interrogator's first accusation (Step 1) with a spontaneous, direct and forceful denial of guilt. He will likely express or otherwise indicate anger and hostility over the accusation and may even insult the interrogator because of it. While making the initial denial, the innocent suspect will look the interrogator "straight in the eye" and may very well lean forward in the chair in a very rigid or aggressive posture. The verbal content of the innocent suspect's denial may be something like: "You're wrong. You've got to be crazy if you think I did something like that!" "Innocent suspects disclose very little warning during the theme development stage that they are about to verbally deny involvement in the crime. They may give some general nonverbal signs that they are about to speak, such as shaking the head or leaning forward while making some hand gesture or arm movement, but they will usually give no verbal clues that a denial is forthcoming. Instead, they simply voice the statement, "I didn't do it," without any prefatory remark."In subsequent editions of our book in 2001 and 2013 we significantly expanded our discussion of this topic.The Netflix program has highlighted the issue of juvenile interrogations and the cautions that must be exercised by investigators. In our course training manuals and books we include the following information:
Take special precautions when interviewing juveniles or individuals with significant mental or psychological impairments Every interrogator must exercise extreme caution and care when interviewing or interrogating a juvenile or a person who is mentally or psychologically impaired. Certainly these individuals can and do commit very serious crimes, but since many false confession cases involve juveniles and/or individuals with some significant mental or psychological disabilities, extreme care must be exercised when questioning these individuals and the investigator has to modify their approach with these individuals. Furthermore, when a juvenile or person who is mentally or psychologically impaired confesses, the investigator should exercise extreme diligence in establishing the accuracy of such a statement through subsequent corroboration. In these situations it is imperative that the interrogator does not reveal details of the crime so that they can use the disclosure of such information by the suspect as verification of the confession's authenticity.The following are excerpts from our book, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 5th edition, published in 2013, on this topic.
"As earlier suggested in the text, caution must be exercised in evaluating a youthful person's behavioral responses. Due to immaturity and the corresponding lack of values and sense of responsibility, the behavior symptoms displayed by a youthful suspect may be unreliable."With the above discussion in mind, the following represents some factors to consider in the assessment of the credibility of a suspect's confession. These issues are certainly not all inclusive, and each case must be evaluated on the "totality of circumstances" surrounding the interrogation and confession, but nevertheless, these are elements that should be given careful consideration:
Mentally impaired (retarded) individuals have poor judgment; are easily influenced by authority figures; may be unable to formulate thoughts and answer questions readily; may not always understand their rights; have an impaired ability to reason and understand the consequences of their actions; Consequently, when an investigator is dealing with a mentally impaired individual, they should "consider whether the person they're interviewing understood the question being asked".... "go slowly and that rapid questions during an interview or confrontation may confuse or frighten the person" ... "the use of suggestive questions must be avoided because such questions tend to produce erroneous answers"...The International Association of Chiefs of Police has published a document entitled, Reducing Risks: An Executive's Guide to Effective Juvenile Interview and Interrogation.Here is a link the IACP publication Credit and Permission Statement:
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