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  3/22/2019Canadian Reporters Still Can’t Get it Right

In two recent articles Canadian reporters continue to misrepresent/misunderstand the Reid Technique.  Here are the two letter we wrote to the reporters attempting to clarify the issues:

Dear Ms. Jerome,

I would like to point out a number of issues that you neglected to mention in your article, Interrogation tactics, errors in justice system lead to false confessions, lawyers say.

Our firm, John E. Reid and Associates, developed and teaches the Reid Technique around the world. In your article you state the following:

The interrogation practice Drizin described [ when discussing the interrogation of Brendon Dassey in the Netflix series Making a Murderer] is called the Reid technique, Haines noted, adding that the RCMP have started using the PEACE model instead. PEACE stands for: Preparation and Planning; Engage and Explain; Account, Clarify and Challenge; Closure and Evaluation.

Kennedy explained that Canadian courts have said to stop using the Reid technique and that the PEACE model comes out of the U.K.

“I think what the RCMP have moved to is a modified form of the PEACE technique,” he added. 

1.It is interesting to note that in Making a Murderer Part 2 Attorney Drizin references Reid and Associates as the standard for proper interrogation procedures: 

"In the Netflix series, Making a Murder Part 2, the interrogation of Brendan Dassey is discussed by Attorney Steve Drizen and Attorney Lauara Nirider during the first 15 minutes of Episode 2.  (Attorneys Drizin and Nirider represent Dassey in his appeals). 

The two attorneys are shown on screen giving a presentation to lawyers at Northwestern University Law School, discussing the Brendan Dassey interrogation.  During their presentation they reference John E. Reid and Associates as the benchmark for proper interrogation practices and procedures.  Specifically, they state that Reid and Associates teaches that using deception or false evidence “should be avoided when interrogating a youthful suspect with low social maturity or a suspect with diminished mental capacity.” 

They then again refer to Reid and Associates as teaching that investigators should not reveal all of the case information to the subject during the interrogation so that the investigator can use the disclosure of that information by the subject as an indication of the authenticity of his confession. 

2.For the record, the Canada Supreme Court has upheld the central element of the Reid Technique in the case R. v. Oickle. In this case the Canadian Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s suppression of an arson confession and expressed implicit approval of many of the interrogation techniques utilized in The Reid Technique. In Oickle, the Court of Appeals suggested that the interrogator's understanding demeanor improperly abused the suspect's trust. The Canadian Supreme Court disagreed stating,  "In essence, the court [of appeals] criticizes the police for questioning the respondent in such a gentle, reassuring manner that they gained his trust. This does not render a confession inadmissible. To hold otherwise would send the perverse message to police that they should engage in adversarial, aggressive questioning to ensure they never gain the suspect's trust, lest an ensuing confession be excluded."

Furthermore, in Oickle, the Court of Appeals concluded that the police improperly offered leniency to the suspect by minimizing the seriousness of his offense. The Supreme Court again disagreed stating,  "Insofar as the police simply downplayed the moral culpability of the offence, their actions were not problematic." 

3.We teach the P.E.A.C.E. Method:  In 2019 we will be presenting 2 courses in Canada entitled, Reid PEACE Method of Investigative Interviewing, in Niagara Falls and Calgary.

4.We are as concerned about false confessions as anyone.  Over the years John E. Reid and Associates has assisted the Innocence Project (New York) on several cases as expert witnesses on proper interview and interrogation techniques, as well as the exoneration of one of their clients by obtaining a confession from the actual offender.  This case was detailed in the story, “I Did It” in New York magazine (   We have also assisted other attorneys (for example, Kathleen Zellner) in wrongful conviction cases.

5.The best way to avoid false confessions is to conduct interrogations in accordance with the guidelines established by the courts, and to adhere to the following practices (core principles of the Reid Technique):

    Do not make any promises of leniency 

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

    Do not conduct interrogations for an excessively lengthy period of time 

    Do not deny the subject any of their rights 

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

   Withhold information about the details of the crime from the subject so that if the subject confesses the disclosure of that information can be used to confirm the authenticity of the statement 

    Exercise special cautions when questioning juveniles or individuals with mental or psychological impairments 

    Always treat the subject with dignity and respect

   The confession is not the end of the investigation – investigate the confession details in an effort to establish the authenticity of the subject’s statement 

 In the future, when you are doing a story referencing the Reid Technique, you should contact us for our comments on the issues you are discussing so as to present a balanced story.

Finally, please review the details in the document that we have prepared that is entitled, Clarifying Misrepresentations About Law Enforcement Interrogation Techniques.  

Joseph P. Buckley
John E. Reid and Associates

Dear Mr. Rose,

I just read your article, How Canadian Police Try To Get You to Confess to a Crime.  I would like to point a few salient facts and would ask that you forward this email and attachments to Sgt. Carr.

Here are some statements in your article and our response:

1.“…widely used Reid technique of interrogation, which is prone to deception, unconstitutional coercion, and, in many cases, false confessions…”

There is absolutely nothing coercive about the Reid technique.  Here are our 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 dignity and respect 

False confessions are not caused by the Reid technique, but by investigators engaging in behaviors outside of the parameters established by the courts such as threatening inevitable consequences; making a promise of leniency in return for the confession; denying a subject their rights; conducting an excessively long interrogation; denying the suspect an opportunity to satisfy their physical needs, etc.

In the United States our Supreme Court has allowed investigators to verbally misrepresent evidence to the subject.  However, we urge extreme caution in doing so.  From our training materials:

1.     Introducing fictitious evidence during an interrogation presents a risk that the guilty suspect may detect the investigator’s bluff, resulting in a significant loss of credibility and sincerity. For this reason, we recommend that this tactic be used as a last resort effort.

2.     This tactic should not be used for the suspect who acknowledges that he may have committed the crime even though he has no specific recollections of doing so. Under this circumstance, the introduction of such evidence may lead to claims that the investigator was attempting to convince the suspect that he, in fact, did commit the crime.

3.   This technique should be avoided when interrogating a youthful suspect with low social maturity or a suspect with diminished mental capacity. These suspects may not have the fortitude or confidence to challenge such evidence and, depending on the nature of the crime, may become confused as to their own possible involvement if the police tell them evidence clearly indicates they committed the crime.

2."…the RCMP has implemented a more conversational style based on the UK’s PEACE (Preparation and Planning, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure and Evaluate) model”

We teach the P.E.A.C.E. Method - Click here for a flyer describing the content of our course.  We have two courses scheduled in Canada this year: April 16-17, 2019 in Niagara Falls, Ontario and October 8-9, 2019 in Calgary.

3. Sure, Darren. What is the goal of an interrogation?

To learn the truth.

It’s not about incriminating someone?
That’s the problem with the old Reid model. It’s very guilt presumptive.

Contrary to Sgt. Carr’s description, the Reid Technique always begins with a non-accusatory investigative interview. From our training materials:

The Reid Technique is oftentimes just thought of and is frequently referred to as simply an interrogation process - it is much more than that. The Reid Technique is a structured interview and interrogation process that involves three primary stages: Fact Analysis, the Investigative Interview and, when appropriate, the Interrogation.

Fact Analysis

Factual analysis consists of reviewing the case facts and evidence in an effort to identify the potential scope of suspects, the probability of the offender’s characteristics, and what their possible motive may have been.

As part of the investigator’s review and analysis of the case facts and evidence, they should identify what specific details about the crime they can use to corroborate any confession that is made in the case. There are two types of corroborating evidence – dependent, which refers to details about the case that the police know but choose to “hold back” - to conceal from the media and the suspects that they question so they can be used to assess the credibility of a subject’s confession. These details may include how the victim was killed; how and where entry was made into the building; where the accelerant was poured, etc.

The second type of corroborating evidence is referred to as independent – this refers to details of the crime that only the offender knows – details that the police do not have; such as where the murder weapon is located; how and where the subject disposed of their bloody clothes; the location of the stolen property; etc.

In the process of analyzing the case facts and evidence the investigator should develop a description of the of the crime scene; the way in which the crime appears to have been committed and the known details of its commission, i.e., implement used, place of entry or exit, any special knowledge required (such as a safe combination); and, the presence of any incriminating factors against a particular subject; etc.

Once the investigator has reviewed and analyzed the case facts and evidence, they should prepare an interview strategy, including a list of issues that should be discussed with each subject, and a list of possible questions that need to be asked of each subject, including the victim, any witnesses and any suspects.

The Investigative Interview

At the outset of the interview the investigator must be sure to comply with all legal requirements, such as the appropriate advisement of rights. It is imperative that throughout the interview, the investigator maintains an objective, neutral, fact-finding demeanor.

The investigative questions will deal with the issue that is under investigation. One of the first things the investigator should do is ask the subject an open-ended question that invites the subject to tell their story. If it is a victim, what happened? If it is a witness, what did they see or hear? If it is a suspect, what were their activities on the day in question? After the subject relates their initial story or version of events the investigator will then ask a series of questions to develop additional details and to clarify the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the incident under investigation.

During this segment of the interview the investigator would explore for any precipitators that may have provoked the incident, or for any procedural or policy violations that may have contributed to the situation. The investigator should attempt to resolve any inconsistencies or contradictions that may have surfaced from the interviews of other subjects or from the investigative information. If the subject offers an alibi for the time period in question, every effort should be made to substantiate the alibi.

In our book, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 5th edition 2013, we devote several chapters to the topic of Investigative Questions.

The third type of question that we utilize in the interview is called a behavior-provoking question (BPQ). BPQs are questions which most truthful individuals answer one way, while deceptive individuals oftentimes answer in a completely different manner. The investigator will present these questions as casual inquiries.

At the conclusion of this non-accusatory interview the investigator will evaluate the investigative and behavioral information developed during the interview, as well as the information, facts and evidence developed during the investigation up to this point, and then make one of several possible decisions: the investigator may eliminate the subject from further investigation; the investigator may determine that the investigation of the subject should continue; or the investigator may decide to initiate the interrogation of the subject. Everyone in an investigation may be interviewed, but very few are interrogated.

The purpose of an interrogation is to learn the truth.  In most instances this consists of the guilty suspect telling the investigator what he did regarding the commission of the crime under investigation.  The obvious reason for this outcome is that interrogation should only occur when the investigative information indicates the suspect’s probable involvement in the commission of the crime. 

However, there can be several other successful outcomes: 

 ·      the suspect may reveal the fact that he did not commit the crime but that he knows (and has been concealing) who did

·      the suspect may reveal that while he did not commit the crime he was lying about some important element of the investigation (such as his alibi – not wanting to acknowledge where he really was at the time of the crime), or

·    the investigator determines the suspect to be innocent 

We recommend that investigators should never use the interrogation process as the initial means by which to assess a subject’s credibility – in other words, we recommend that after the initial non-accusatory investigative interview and the collection of evidence only those subjects should be interrogated whom the investigative information suggests are most probably involved in the commission of the crime.

For additional information se our document entitled, Clarifying Misrepresentations About Law Enforcement Interrogation Techniques.

In the future when you write an article that discusses the Reid Technique you should be sure to talk to us so you get a full understanding of the issues.

Joseph P. Buckley
John E. Reid and Associates

800-255-5747 ext 19

  2/13/2019An example of how Dr. Richard Leo testifies about the interrogation process
In the case US v. Hyatt (January 2019) the US District Court, E.D. California, included the following description of the testimony of Dr. Richard Leo.

"Leo is a professor of law and psychology at the University of San Francisco…. He has testified as an expert on the subjects of police interrogation, psychological coercion, and false confessions well over three hundred times…. His testimony was admitted as expert testimony on those subjects in this case…. On cross-examination, Leo agreed that in a few cases his testimony was not permitted by the court…. In 2008 a Michigan court found his methodology unreliable….

Leo distinguished interviews, which involve open-ended questions, from interrogations, which are typically accusatory…. Interrogations are “guilt presumptive” because they are “typically preceded by an investigation in which the police or agents conclude that a person committed the crime.” …..  Police then interrogate that person with the goal of obtaining a confession….  A typical method of doing so involves isolating the suspect, building rapport with the suspect, and then accusing and confronting the suspect……

Leo testified that an interrogation becomes psychologically coercive when the suspect perceives that he has “no meaningful choice but to do what they are being pressured and persuaded or demanded to do.” …..  Interrogators employ various psychological techniques.

They include:

• Falsely informing a suspect that the interrogators have evidence linking them to the crime, to encourage admissions….  Leo testified that false evidence ploys are often a “real problem in false confession cases.” ….. 

• Providing inducements to persuade a suspect that it is in their best interest to stop denying….  Inducements can also appeal to morality or conscience…. 

• Minimizing the suspect's involvement to make the suspect think that if they confess, the consequences will be minimal….. 

• Maximizing the potential consequences as a threat for continuing to deny involvement and not cooperating….. 

A suspect's cognitive and intellectual deficits and personality traits can make them more vulnerable to psychological coercion….. 

Leo testified that interrogations can also be problematic when the interrogator discloses non-public details about the crime, which are later repeated back by the suspect demonstrating guilt….. 

Leo also testified that the videotaped confession shows Hayat was fatigued and sleep-deprived…..  Leo testified that Hayat's requests to see his father and go home, which were effectively denied, demonstrate a problem in false confessions that the suspect “understands that the only way to put an end to the interrogation or to go home is to say what the interrogator is looking for.” …..

Leo next considered frequent statements made to Hayat that if he cooperated, interrogators should be able to help him and “things are going to be a lot better for you.” ….  An interrogator also told Hayat, “If I'm gonna make an argument for you, who I, I think is not an important part in this.... I need you to tell me details about targets.... And, this is where I need your memory to come back.”….  Leo testified that these statements show an attempt by interrogators to suggest that there is a quid pro quo in exchange for confession. 

Asking Hayat whether he may have gone to a jihadist training camp thinking that he was actually going to a religious education camp is an example of the minimization risk factor…..  Interrogators attempted to have Hayat admit he attended a camp by suggesting that Hayat's intentions in going to a camp might be considered.

In summary, Leo testified that the following risk factors for false confessions were present in the recorded portion of Hayat's interrogation: a false evidence ploy, inducements with the suggestion of benefits for cooperation, sleep deprivation, and the lengthy interrogation. 

For a white paper we prepared which addresses many of the criticisms and mischaracterizations of law enforcement interrogation techniques, click here.

  2/6/2019Court upholds investigators using minimization techniques and suggesting justifications for the crime

In Gomez v. California (January 2019) the US District Court, E.D. California, upheld the lower court’s decision to admit the incriminating statements made by the defendant who was convicted of twelve counts of committing forcible lewd acts upon a child under fourteen years old.  In reviewing the admissibility of the defendant’s confession, the District Court stated that no single factor is dispositive in evaluating the voluntariness of a statement, and whether the confession is voluntary depends on the totality of circumstance.  Fromm the District Court’s opinion: 

Relevant considerations concerning whether an interrogation is coercive include the length of the interrogation, its location, and its continuity, as well as the defendant's maturity, education, physical condition, and mental health.  In assessing police tactics that are allegedly coercive, courts have only prohibited those psychological ploys which are so coercive they tend to produce a statement that is both involuntary and unreliable under all of the circumstances.  Investigators are permitted to ask tough questions, exchange information, summarize evidence, outline theories, confront, contradict, and even debate with a suspect… They may accuse the suspect of lying … and urge him or her to tell the truth.  Investigators can suggest the defendant may not have been the actual perpetrator, or may not have intended a murder victim to die. They can suggest possible explanations of events and offer a defendant the opportunity to provide details of the crime. Absent improper threats or promises, there is no constitutional principle forbidding the suggestion by authorities that it is worse for a defendant to lie in the presence of overwhelming and incriminating evidence...Deception does not undermine the voluntariness of a defendant's statements to investigators unless it is of a type reasonably likely to procure an untrue statement. 

A confession is not invalidated simply because the possibility of a death sentence was discussed beforehand, but only where the confession results directly from the threat such punishment will be imposed if the suspect is uncooperative—coupled with a promise of leniency in exchange for cooperation. Suggestions by investigators that killings may have been accidental or resulted from a fit of rage during a drunken blackout fall far short of promises of lenient treatment in exchange for cooperation. This is especially the case where detectives did not represent that the prosecutor or court would grant the defendant any particular benefit if he told them how the killings occurred. 

Defendant's minimization argument fails to convince us the detectives interrogated him by improper coercive means. The detectives presented defendant with justifications for his crime, suggesting A.C. may have consented in the conduct. The detectives told him several times he was lying and asked him to tell the truth. The detectives speculated about the facts of the case and suggested defendant was in love with A.C., that they were in a relationship, and even that she may have initiated some sexual contact. A technique allowing the defendant to share the blame with the victim is permissible and does not render a confession the product of undue psychological coercion… The questions and hypotheticals posed did not imply defendant was innocent or suggest there would be no criminal charges against him. The detectives conducted permissible questioning. Neither detective made an improper promise or threat to defendant… The “minimization” by detectives of defendant's conduct included no promise of leniency from the prosecutor or the trial court.

The minimization used by the detectives was not employed to suggest to defendant he was innocent of any crime, and there was no mention of leniency. No threats were employed by the detectives to coerce defendant. After Skrinde suggested defendant and A.C. were in a relationship, Garcia stated this could change everything. But rather than implying defendant's innocence, Garcia immediately suggested defendant forced A.C. to have anal sex. This interrogation technique did not minimize defendant's culpability. Defendant initially denied the detectives' suggestion that he had a relationship with A.C. Later, defendant admitted molesting A.C. but denied using force. In summary, defendant has not demonstrated his interrogators used impermissible coercive techniques that overborne his will. Defendant cooperated with the detectives and his conduct was voluntary. 

Click here for the complete decision.

  1/31/2019An Example of what Dr. Richard Leo says when he testifies on the issue of false confessions

In People v. Lucero (January 2019) the court summarized the testimony of Dr. Richard Leo on the issue of false confessions as follows:

“Richard Leo, a professor of law and psychology at the University of San Francisco, testified as an expert witness on false confessions. Leo explained that the “goal of police interrogation is to get an incriminating statement, ideally a narrative confession from a criminal suspect whom the police officers believe is guilty in order to build a case against them.” “[T]he assumption is people aren’t going to [confess] unless you put pressure on them and use [specialized] psychological accusatory techniques.” The interrogation process is “designed for guilty people” and interrogations are “fundamentally accusatory.” Therefore, “when innocent people are mistakenly interrogated, sometimes they will make or agree to false confessions.” “There are a number of techniques and a number of personality traits that increase the risk of why somebody would falsely confess, and the explanations are typically based both on the person’s individual make up as well as the techniques that are used during interrogation.” When an interrogation is prolonged, it “usually makes people feel desperate, hopeless, wanting to escape, for them, what is a high-pressure environment.” Most false confessions are the product of “longer interrogations.” “Although [interrogations are] not designed to psychologically coerce” people, “that’s the effect nonetheless.” Leo testified that hundreds of cases of false confessions have been documented and the law enforcement community is cognizant of, and acknowledges, the phenomenon of false confessions. However, false confessions remain the exception.” 

For detailed information about law enforcement interrogation techniques and the suggestion that they can cause false confessions, see  “Clarifying Misrepresentations About Law Enforcement Interrogation Techniques” – click here.

  12/26/2018Oregon Supreme Court does not find the Reid Technique to be coercive
In State v. Jackson (December 2018) the Oregon Supreme Court indicated that the Reid Technique is not coercive, and as with all strategies to develop information from a suspect, must be viewed in the context of the “totality of circumstances.”  

In this case the Supreme Court of Oregon found that the detectives “induced defendant to confess through threats and promises,” (which we teach NOT TO DO) and that under the totality of circumstances, the “defendant’s confession during two-day custodial interrogation by detectives was involuntary.”   From the Supreme Court’s opinion:

Defendant has been charged with 12 counts of aggravated murder, relating to the deaths of four victims that occurred in the 1980s. He was brought to the police station for questioning regarding those offenses in October 2015, and the present appeal concerns the trial court's suppression of evidence derived from a two-day interrogation. The trial court concluded that certain inculpatory statements that defendant had made during and immediately after the interrogation were not voluntary.  For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

The Supreme Court details the interrogation of the defendant, the trial court’s opinion, and then states the following:

“The trial court acknowledged that this is a close case. We agree. The detectives who conducted this interrogation were skilled, and they may have succeeded in convincing defendant to voluntarily tell them what happened, to the best of his memory. The detectives did not make any promise of immunity, explaining that, no matter what defendant said, he would be charged with murder. They informed defendant of his right to remain silent and to consult with counsel, and he requested, and they permitted, cigarette and bathroom breaks. At times, the detectives' interrogation may have been hostile, but it was not consistently so. For the most part, the detectives' interrogation appealed to defendant's better nature and encouraged him to help the families of the victims. On the other hand, defendant is a schizophrenic who experienced delusions in the past, and who takes medication for depression and high blood pressure and to help him sleep. Defendant has significant memory problems. He needs assistance with shopping, cannot drive, and has a limited ability to walk. His limitations are so significant that he receives disability services and has a live-in care provider. The detectives isolated defendant from his family, removing his cell phone and not permitting him to make calls, despite his request to do so. Although defendant denied any memory of the murders, perhaps due to his history of drug and alcohol use and resulting blackouts, the detectives continued to question him for a significant length of time and told him that they would continue to do so until they were “working together.” When they had “worked through some of these things,” the detectives explained, they would permit defendant to talk to his family. The detectives told defendant that it would be best for him to confess so that the detectives might eliminate him as a suspect in additional crimes and because it would give him more control over how the case would proceed, observing that, if defendant did not confess, they would do their best to ensure that he received the maximum possible sentence. Viewed independently, none of those factors would be dispositive, but together they indicate that the detectives' methods and inducements may have persuaded defendant to tell the detectives what they wanted to hear, whether or not that was the truth. Considering the totality of the circumstances, we agree with the trial court; the state has not convinced us that defendant's admissions during and after the second cigarette break on October 15 were voluntary.”

Note: In this case the defense suggested that the investigators used the Reid Technique.  There is no reference to the testimony of the investigators as to what techniques they employed in the interrogation of the defendant.  However, we teach never to make any threats of harm or promises on leniency – in fact, here are the core principles of the Reid Technique:

  • Do not make any promises of leniency
  • Do not threaten the subject with any physical harm or inevitable consequences
  • Do not conduct interrogations for an excessively lengthy period of time
  • Do not deny the subject any of their rights
  • Do not deny the subject the opportunity to satisfy their physical needs

Withhold information about the details of the crime from the subject so that if the subject confesses the disclosure of that information can be used to confirm the authenticity of the statement

Exercise special cautions when questioning juveniles or individuals with mental or psychological impairments

Always treat the subject with dignity and respect

The confession is not the end of the investigation – investigate the confession details in an effort to establish the authenticity of the subject’s statement

The description of the Reid Technique in the Supreme Court’s opinion is based on a publication by Saul Kassin, in which the technique is described as, “isolating a suspect in a small room to increase anxiety; confronting the suspect with accusations of guilt and emphasizing the strength of the evidence against the suspect; offering sympathy and justifications or rationalizations to allow the suspect to minimize the crime; and encouraging the suspect to see confession as a means of terminating the interview.”

For the record, the Reid Technique never begins with an interrogation, but always begins with a non-accusatory investigative interview.  It is only when the investigative information indicates the subject’s probable involvement in the commission of the crime that an interrogation would be appropriate.  

We do recommend that interviews and interrogations take place in a private setting, but we never teach investigators to detain non-custodial suspects or to isolate suspects and prevent them from contacting others.  In a custodial interrogation the suspect is advised of his Miranda rights and if he invokes those rights the interrogation is immediately terminated.

We never teach or recommend that the interrogator should try to increase the suspect’s feeling of despair or hopelessness. In fact, we teach that it is improper to tell the suspect that he is facing inevitable consequences. We reference numerous cases in our book in which threatening inevitable consequences can be a high risk factor in causing a false confession.

It is interesting to note that the US Supreme Court understands the need for interrogations to be conducted in a private setting: “Often the place of questioning will have to be a police interrogation room because it is important to assure the proper atmosphere of privacy and non-distraction if questioning is to be made productive.” (Culombe v. Connecticut (1961) 367 U.S. 568, 579).

There are two types of acceptable minimization that can occur during an interrogation:  minimizing the moral seriousness of the behavior or minimizing the psychological consequences of the behavior.  We never teach to minimize the legal consequences of the subject’s behavior.

  12/12/2018Reid and Associates featured in the series Criminal Confessions on the OXYGEN channel

On Saturday, December 8, 2018 John E. Reid and Associates was featured in the series, Criminal Confessions, on the Oxygen channel.  The case is described on the Oxygen blog page, and is entitled, “Man Violently Murders Parents for Their $240K Life Insurance Payout.”  From the article:

“Detectives were unable to generate any new leads during that time, and they decided to “try and [sic] reinterview Chris to get at the truth," said Detective Hall. Before bringing Christopher back in, however, they contacted cold case homicide interview expert Rich Byington, who is a senior investigator with leading interrogation company John E. Reid & Associates. 

Using the Reid technique — a three-part process that includes Fact Analysis, Behavior Analysis Interview and the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation — Byington was able to get Christopher to open up about the night his parents were murdered.

Byington started the interrogation by telling Christopher he had interviewed various people about the case and deduced "there's no doubt you caused the death of your parents." In shock, Christopher ultimately broke down and admitted the murders were "just an accident." He told detectives that he went to Pizza Plus around 10:30 PM on the 29th and got into an argument with his parents about money.

Christopher detailed how he slit his mother's throat before chasing his father out of the restaurant, grabbing him from behind and choking him. He then went back inside and bludgeoned his mother with the fire extinguisher to make sure she "was not moving." Christopher said he replaced the fire extinguisher and cut his father's throat before leaving the crime scene. 

Christopher was charged the capital murders and robberies of Harvey and Valerie Looney, and he pleaded no contest…..he was sentenced to life in prison….”

Here is the episode: Tazwell, VA

  12/4/2018Testifying in Court
In their Winter 2018 publication, Point of View, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, (Nancy E. O’Mally, District Attorney) has published an article entitled, Testifying in Court, which discusses the testimony guidelines for law enforcement officers, addressing such topics as preparation, impartiality, avoiding traps, phraseology of responses, and a series of general suggestions. 
Click here of the full article.

  11/27/2018Indiana Supreme Court finds that assistant principal questioning a student about criminal mischief was not acting as an agent of the police

In D.Z. v. State (June 2018) the Supreme Court of Indiana found that in a criminal mischief and harassment case when the assistant high school principal questioned the juvenile suspect (student), he was not acting as an agent of the police, and that there was evidence sufficient to support adjudication of delinquency.  From the Supreme Court’s opinion: 

Chief Justice Rush: As today's companion opinion B.A. holds, Miranda warnings protect students—no less than adults at a school—when police place them under custodial interrogation. Custodial interrogation, though, requires police involvement. So when school officials alone meet with students, a clear rule governs: Miranda warnings are not required.  Here, only an assistant principal interviewed D.Z., so Miranda warnings were not required. We also find no reversible evidentiary error and that sufficient evidence supports D.Z.'s criminal-mischief adjudication, so we affirm the juvenile court.

Click here for additional details

Also, in Miranda v. State (November 2018) the Court of Appeals of Texas, El Paso upheld the lower court’s decision that the defendant (a high school teacher), when being questioned by the director of employee relations for the school district about engaging in sexual activities with students, did not need to be advised of his Miranda rights because it was not a custodial interview and the director of employee relations was not acting on behalf of a law enforcement agency.   

Click here for the case details.

  11/20/2018Legal Updates Fall 2018

The Legal Updates Fall 2018 column contains cases which address the following issues:

  • Confession was suppressed when request to stop answering questions was ignored  (value of the video in supporting defendant’s claims)  
  • Confession found inadmissible when investigators did not honor the defendant’s request for an attorney 
  • Reference to the fact that the defendant’s girl friend would be arrested was not coercive  
  • Court finds that testimony by investigator “concerning body language indicative of deception” was inadmissible  
  • Value of video in contradicting defendant’s claim  
  • Court rejects the claim that the “false friend technique” and misrepresenting the strength of evidence against the defendant were coercive

Click here for the updates

  11/05/2018References to John E. Reid and Associates in Making a Murder Part 2

In the Netflix series, Making a Murder Part 2, the interrogation of Brendan Dassey is discussed by Attorney Steve Drizen and Attorney Lauara Nirider during the first 15 minutes of Episode 2.  (Attorneys Drizin and Nirider represent Dassey in his appeals). 

The two attorneys are shown on screen giving a presentation to lawyers at Northwestern University Law School, discussing the Brendan Dassey interrogation.  During their presentation they reference John E. Reid and Associates as the benchmark for proper interrogation practices and procedures.  Specifically, they state that Reid and Associates teaches that using deception or false evidence “should be avoided when interrogating a youthful suspect with low social maturity or a suspect with diminished mental capacity.” 

They then again refer to Reid and Associates as teaching that investigators should not reveal all of the case information to the subject during the interrogation so that the investigator can use the disclosure of that information by the subject as an indication of the authenticity of his confession. 

A third reference to Reid occurs when attorney Nirider says that, according to Reid and Associations, “slumping in the chair, putting your hand over your mouth, saying I don’t know, and not looking a person in the eye” – all behaviors that Brendan Dassey displayed during his interrogation - are behaviors indicative of a deceptive person.  Attorney Nirider states that these behaviors are part of Brendan Dassey’s disability and not indications of deceptive behavior, and that the investigators misclassified his status as a deceptive subject.

The problem with this discussion by Attorney Nirider is that she completely ignores the fact that all of these behaviors must be viewed in context, and she ignores the rules that we teach that the investigator must follow in the evaluation of a subject’s behavior, as well as the factors (such as culture) that must be considered in the evaluation of a subject’s behavior.  In a letter that we wrote to Attorneys Drizin and Nirider over a year ago on March 31, 2017, we pointed these issues out to her.

Here are excerpts from that letter:  

"Laura referenced some of these behaviors as though they were literal indications of truth or deception; for example, if a person says, “I don’t know” in response to an investigator’s question, he is lying; if a person has his palms up, he is telling the truth; etc. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. 

To illustrate, if you ask a person what they did 4 weeks ago on Thursday night between 6pm and midnight, it would be perfectly reasonable for the person to say, “I don’t know.”  However, if you ask a subject if they had anything to do with causing the death of their neighbor last night, and they responded, “I don’t know” it would certainly raise several questions.  In other words, all behavior has to be viewed in context and in accordance with the principles, factors and rules that serve as the foundation for a behavioral assessment. 

In all of our training programs we teach that there is no behavior unique to lying. (From Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 5th ed) 

There are no unique behaviors associated with truthfulness or deception. The behavioral observations an investigator makes of a suspect do not specifically correlate to truth or deception. Rather, they reflect the subject’s internal emotional state, cognitive processes, and internal physiological arousal experienced during a response….

We also teach that the investigator must understand all of the factors that can influence a subject’s behavior, as well as the rules that we need to follow in the evaluation of a subject’s behavior – in particular, establishing the subject’s baseline or normal behavior…..

Establish the subject’s normal behavioral patternsCertainly there are non-deceptive reasons for a suspect to exhibit poor eye contact, respond to questions quickly or slowly, to scratch themselves, yawn, clear their throat, change their posture, etc. Before any of these behaviors can be considered a criteria of deception, the investigator must first establish what the subject’s normal behavioral patterns are.  Consequently, at the outset of each interview the investigator should spend several minutes discussing nonthreatening information (perhaps casual conversation or collecting biographical information) so as to establish a behavioral baseline for the particular subject. Then, as the interview progresses and the subject exhibits behavioral changes when the issue under investigation is discussed, these changes may take on added significance.

In summary, although the verbal and nonverbal behavior displayed by a subject during an interview may provide valuable and accurate indications of possible innocence or guilt, the investigator should evaluate the behavior according to the guidelines states in Chapter 9 [in Criminal Interrogation and Confessions]. Furthermore, the following factors, which may affect the validity of behavior symptoms, should be considered: the perceived seriousness of the offense, the mental and physical condition of the subject, any underlying psychiatric or personality disorders; level of intelligence; degree of maturity; and the extent or absence of social responsibilities.


  11/1/2018Factors to consider in the evaluation of the voluntariness of a confession
In Keyser v. Smith (Sept. 2018) the US District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania, articulated many of the factors that must be considered in evaluating the voluntariness of a confession:

The duration and means of interrogation, including whether questioning was repeated, prolonged, or accompanied by physical abuse or threats thereof; the length of the accused's detention prior to the confession, whether the accused was advised of his or her constitutional rights; the attitude exhibited by the police during the interrogation; the accused's physical and psychological state, including whether he or she was injured, ill, drugged, or intoxicated; the conditions attendant to the detention, including whether the accused was deprived of food, drink, sleep, or medical attention; the age, education, and intelligence of the accused; the experience of the accused with law enforcement and the criminal justice system; and any other factors which might serve to drain one’s powers of resistance to suggestion and coercion. 

Click here for the complete decision.

  10/11/2018The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office: Interrogation
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has prepared and published an excellent article entitled, Interrogation, which examines numerous interrogation issues, including when pressure becomes coercion, looking at such elements as location of the interrogation, threats and promises, interrogation tactics, exploiting a psychological vulnerability and the suspect’s “power of resistance.”
Click here for updates.

For several years now John E. Reid and Associates has conducted specialized, in-house training programs for numerous military personnel. In 2019 we will offer two open registration programs (for military personnel ONLY). These programs will be held in Tampa, FL (Spring) and Las Vegas, NV (Fall).  Specific dates and locations will be announced in the coming months.

The Reid military program for special operations, intelligence, counterintelligence, and HUMINT collection integrates the Reid “Behavior Analysis Interview” and “Nine Steps” with Army Field Manual 2-22.3 (“the Manual”) in the arts of detecting deception, tactical questioning, screening, debriefing, source contact operations, elicitation, liaison, and interrogation to fit the MOS of each specific audience. 

The Reid Military Instructional Program differs from its counterpart law enforcement programs by:

  • focusing themes and behavior assessment for maximum effectiveness within target geographic areas of responsibility (AORs); 
  • adapting instructional models to the risks/variables inherent within uncontrolled environments; 
  • incorporating recognition and resistance against hostile interrogation/elicitation tactics;  
  • including proactive intelligence collection in addition to after-action investigation; 
We will post the specific dates and locations in the coming months.

  8/16/2018Legal Updates Summer 2018

The Legal Updates Summer 2018 column contains cases which address the following issues

  • Interrogation 5 hours after initial advisement of rights was “reasonably contemporaneous” with the initial waiver
  • Value of video recording in contradicting defendant’s claims: three cases  
  • Court rules that confession was the result of coercive statements to the defendant  
  • Court rules confession should have been suppressed: lack of Miranda advisement and promises of leniency  
  • Interrogation room and seating arrangement as a consideration in assessing the voluntary nature of the confession: two cases  
  • Elements of a false confession   
  • Failure to call false confession expert is not suggestive of ineffective counsel: two cases   
  • Misrepresentations of evidence by police, although a relevant factor, do not render an otherwise voluntary confession inadmissible    
  • Detailed analysis of criteria to determine juvenile waiver of rights

Click here for updates.

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