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  01/29/2015False Confessions
False confessions do occur. Although they happen infrequently, they often involve high profile cases. Whenever they occur it is incumbent on all investigators to examine the details of each case in order to learn the cause and effect relationship between what happened during the questioning of the subject and the subsequent false admission of guilt. Generally speaking, the overwhelming majority of false confession cases involve investigator behavior that exceeds the parameters established by the courts and professional best practices.

To guard against the possibility of a false confession, all investigators should adhere to the following core principles:

  • Always conduct interviews and interrogations in accordance with the guidelines established by the courts

  • Do not make any promises of leniency

  • Do not threaten the subject with any physical harm or inevitable consequences

  • Do not deny the subject any of their rights

  • Do not deny the subject the opportunity to satisfy their physical needs

  • Always treat the subject with decency and respect

  • Do not conduct excessively long interrogations

  • Exercise extreme caution when questioning juveniles and individual with mental disabilities

Here a number of websites that discuss false confession cases:


  12/03/2014Legal Updates Fall 2014
The Legal Updates Fall 2014 column contains cases which address the following issues:
  • Court allows surreptitious video recording of incriminating statement into evidence
  • Court rules that Dr. Shawn Roberson would not be allowed to testify on false confession issues at trial
  • Counsel's failure to retain expert witness on false confessions was matter of reasonable trial strategy
  • Social Security Fraud
  • Failure to develop and present expert testimony on false confession issues is does not indicate ineffective counsel (value of video taping interrogation)
  • Value of video recording to demonstrate confession voluntariness
  • Court rejects testimony of forensic psychiatrist that defendant fits the profile of someone who would be susceptible to giving a false confession
  • Police are not required to give Miranda advisement of persons they suspect or question, even in a police station, absent custody
  • Court rejects the suggestion that a loss of visitation rights was coercive
  • Juvenile interrogation - confession volutariness issues
  • Repeated implied promises of leniency nullify confession admissibility
  • Defendant who scored 53 on IQ test can give a knowing and intelligent waiver of his rights
  • Court finds confession was result of coercive police interrogation - the importance of using extreme care when questioning an individual with limited mental capacity
  • Confession voluntariness and the exclusion of clinical psychologist at guilt phase (value of video recording)
  • Pre-arrest silence cannot be used as substantive evidence of guilt

Click here to Review Updates

  12/03/2014Research indicates a 97.8% accuracy rate at detecting deception
A recent study published in Human Communication Research by researchers at Korea University, Michigan State University, and Texas State University -- San Marcos found that using active questioning of individuals yielded near-perfect results, 97.8%, in detecting deception.

An expert using the Reid Technique interrogated participants in the first study, this expert was 100% accurate (33 of 33) in determining who had cheated and who had not. That kind of accuracy has 100 million to one odds. The second group of participants were then interviewed by five US federal agents with substantial polygraph and interrogation expertise. Using a more flexible and free approach (interviews lasted from three minutes to 17 minutes), these experts were able to accurately detect whether or not a participant cheated in 87 of 89 interviews (97.8%). In the third study, non-experts were shown taped interrogations of the experts from the previous two experiments. These non-experts were able to determine deception at a greater-than-chance rate -- 79.1% (experiment 1), and 93.6% (experiment 2).

Previous studies with "experts" usually used passive deception detection where they watched videotapes. In the few studies where experts were allowed to question potential liars, either they had to follow questions scripted by researchers (this study had no scripts) or confession seeking was precluded. Previous studies found that accuracy was near chance -- just above 50%.

"This research suggests that effective questioning is critical to deception detection," Levine said. "Asking bad questions can actually make people worse than chance at lie detection, and you can make honest people appear guilty. But, fairly minor changes in the questions can really improve accuracy, even in brief interviews. This has huge implications for intelligence and law enforcement.
Click here for the study

  12/01/2014The Reid Technique - A Position Paper
As the world leader in teaching interview and interrogation techniques, The Reid Technique is commonly challenged by defense attorneys and interrogation critics. We have prepared a position paper that will provide you with information to respond to these challenges. In this paper we address the following topics:

  • The core principles of the Reid Technique
  • Best Practices
  • Why false confession experts criticize The Reid Technique
  • What the courts say about false confession experts
  • What the courts say about The Reid Technique
  • The best way to guard against false confessions
  • "Reid" testifying as interrogation experts
  • How do I answer the question, "Do you use The Reid Technique?"
    Click here to access this position paper.

  •   09/30/2014Legal Updates Summer 2014
    Legal Updates Summer 2014 The Legal Updates Summer 2014 column contains cases which address the following issues:
    • Investigator's statement that felony murder would receive a lesser sentence than premeditated murder did not render confession involuntary
    • Video of interrogation demonstrates that juvenile did not make a knowing and intelligent waiver of his rights
    • Confession rendered involuntary when defendant told he could not get a fair trial because of his race
    • Value of recording: Video of interrogation contradicts defendant's claims
    • US Supreme Court finds Florida test to determine intellectual disability as factor for eligibility for execution unconstitutional
    • Investigators operated at the "outer bounds of permissible conduct"
    • Confession was coerced when investigators threatened to have Child Protective Services take defendant's child away
    • Defendant claims statements were involuntary because he had been given morphine, hydrocodone and promethazine
    • Colorado Supreme Court examines 13 factors that should be considered in evaluating whether a confession was coerced
    • "the law permits the police to pressure and cajole, conceal material facts, and actively mislead"
    • PA Supreme Court rules that expert testimony of false confessions invades the province of the jury
    • Does interrogating a suspect in a police car create a custodial environment?
    • Confession voluntariness - lying about the evidence
    • Georgia Supreme Court rejects the idea that a suggestion that the shooting was an accident constitutes a hope of leniency
    • Court offers scathing rejection of false confession expert Dr. Allison Redlich
    • Electronic recording of the confession is not required
    • Bible in the interrogation room is not coercive

    Click Here to Review Updates

      08/14/2014Not so Fast - the Central Park Jogger case
    As everyone knows the Central Park Jogger case has become a high profile "false confession" case - highlighted by the documentary Ken Burns did about the case.

    Not so fast. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal sheds some very interesting light on the case. The story was written by Michael Armstrong who is of counsel at McLaughlin & Stern. He has served as Queens County district attorney and chief counsel to the Knapp Commission investigating corruption in the New York City Police Department.
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