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  02/10/2015Courts affirm interrogation techniques that are often mischaracterized by false confession experts
Courts affirm interrogation techniques that are often mischaracterized by false confession experts

In our Legal Updates Summer 2014 we have several cases that we wanted to highlight for our audience that specifically affirm interrogation techniques that false confession critics often mischaracterize and associate with false confession topics.

1. Misrepresenting evidence:

False confession experts ofttimes testify that when the police misrepresent evidence to the suspect (for example, that there was a DNA match) there is a high probability that it will cause a false confession. In actuality it is not the misrepresentation of evidence that is the impetus, but rather the "aggravating circumstances" otherwise present during the interrogation. Here are two cases addressing the issue of misrepresenting evidence to the suspect.

In Jefferson v. State (July 2014) the Supreme Court of Nevada found that "Jefferson's argument that his confession was rendered involuntary by the detectives' deceptive interrogation techniques is unavailing. Jefferson argues that the detectives misrepresented DNA evidence by exaggerating what DNA evidence could reveal to them and the time frame in which they would learn the information. However, "an officer's lie about the strength of the evidence against the defendant is, in itself, insufficient to make the confession involuntary."
Furthermore, in US v. Graham (June 2014) the US District Court, N.D. Georgia, pointed out that misrepresenting evidence is "one factor to consider among the totality of the circumstances in determining voluntariness." ... However, "[c]ourts have been reluctant to deem trickery by the police a basis for excluding a confession on the ground that the tricks made the confession coerced and thus involuntary."

The court points out that there are a number of cases in which statements elicited from a defendant in response to police deception were found involuntary,.... but "these cases all involve significant aggravating circumstances not present here, such as, subjecting the accused to an exhaustingly long interrogation, the application of physical force or the threat to do so, or the making of a promise that induces a confession."

In other words, it is not the misrepresentation of evidence that is the genesis of a coerced or even false confession, but the "aggravating circumstances" present during the interrogation.

2. The accident scenario:

False confession experts ofttimes testify that when the police suggest to the suspect that the shooting may have been an accident, it is tantamount to a promise of leniency and that it is likely to cause an innocent person to confess. Here are two cases addressing the issue of suggesting that the die may have been caused accidentally.
In State v. Turner (May 2014) the Nebraska Supreme Court held that misinformation by police officers during the defendant's interview that felony murder would receive a lesser sentence than premeditated murder did not overcome defendant's will so as to render his confession involuntary based on purported promises of leniency. From the court's opinion: "Turner argues that his confession was involuntary because it was induced by an implied promise that he would receive a lesser sentence if he confessed that the shooting was accidental. As evidence of this implied promise, he points to Ficenec's statements that it made "a big difference" how and why the shooting occurred..." After an examination of the totality of circumstances the court rejected this argument and found the confession admissible.

In Smith v. State (June 2014) the Supreme Court of Georgia held that statements by the police detectives during a custodial interrogation to the effect that shooting the victim was an accident in response to the victim lunging at the defendant did not constitute a slightest hope of benefit that could render defendant's confession inadmissible.

3. Confession voluntariness:

In People v. McIntyre (May 2014) the Colorado Supreme Court laid out 13 factors that they consider in the evaluation of the voluntariness of a confession:

  1. whether the defendant was in custody;

  2. whether the defendant was free to leave;

  3. whether the defendant was aware of the situation;

  4. whether the police read Miranda rights to the defendant;

  5. whether the defendant understood and waived Miranda rights;

  6. whether the defendant had an opportunity to confer with counsel or anyone else prior to or during the interrogation;

  7. whether the statement was made during the interrogation or volunteered later;

  8. . whether the police threatened [the] defendant or promised anything directly or impliedly;

  9. the method [or style] of the interrogation;

  10. the defendant's mental and physical condition just prior to the interrogation;

  11. the length of the interrogation;

  12. the location of the interrogation; and

  13. the physical conditions of the location where the interrogation occurred.

Current What's New:
  05/18/2017The Development of the Non-Confrontational Interview

John E. Reid and his colleague, Northwestern Professor of Law Fred E. Inbau, developed the non-confrontational interview as an integral part of any questioning of a suspect.

The following excerpts are from the second edition of their book, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, published in 1967 (the first edition was published in 1962 but was revised after the US Supreme Court’s 1966 decision, Miranda v. Arizona).

When discussing how to approach and question a subject regarding possible involvement in the commission of the crime under investigation, the authors recommend that the investigator “assume a neutral position and refrain from making any statement or implications one way or the other until the subject discloses some information or indications pointing either to his innocence or his guilt.”

In conducting this non-confrontational interview the authors state, “The subject must be questioned and engaged in conversation in order to permit the [investigator] to study his behavior and conduct, to search for significant remarks or contradictions in his statements, and to check his statements in the light of known facts and circumstances.”

Reid and Inbau suggest that the following questions should be part of this interview:

  • Ask the subject if he knows why he is being questioned
  • Ask the subject to relate all he knows about the occurrence, the victim, and possible suspects
  • Obtain from the subject detailed information about his activities before, at the time of, and after the occurrence in question
  • Ask the subject if he ever thought about committing the offense in question or one similar to it
  • Ask the subject whether he is willing to take a lie-detector test

These guidelines and questions developed into what is today an integral part of the Reid Technique - the Behavior Analysis Interview.

In all investigations we teach to conduct a non-accusatory, non-confrontational Behavior Analysis Interview with each subject to determine whether or not an interrogation is appropriate.

  05/10/2017Reid announces collaboration with iRecord

John E. Reid & Associates has always advocated for the proper treatment of all suspects during an investigation. We teach that every suspect needs to be treated in a respectful and lawful manner.

One of the tenants of THE REID TECHNIQUE® is that an investigator should never make any promise of leniency or in any way threaten a suspect to obtain an admission of guilt. Any admission that is obtained needs to be properly substantiated. 

An important way to document that a suspect interview and interrogation is conducted properly is by recording the process. To help promote this, Reid is pleased to announce our collaboration with the iRecord Company.

IRecord is the premier provider of recording software and video equipment for Law Enforcement Agencies and Child Advocacy Centers. They provide secure, high quality recording solutions that can be adapted to interview rooms of all types.

Our goal in working with iRecord is to encourage the recording of suspect interviews and interrogations and to provide investigators the skills necessary to conduct effective, lawful interrogations.

Reid invites any agency that installs an iRecord system to send one of their investigators through our 4-Day Interview and Interrogation seminar for free. We will also allow any agency that currently uses an iRecord system to send someone through our training for free.

To obtain additional information about the iRecord Company and their services you can go to their website at You can also receive further details about our collaborative free seat policy by contacting Toni Overman.

  04/11/2017The Reid Technique - Celebrating 70 Years of Excellence
Founded in 1947, the Reid Technique has become the gold standard for proper interview and interrogation procedures.

Our Core Principles are as follows:
  • 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

Click here for full story.






We are responding to Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates' (W-Z) recent public announcement that it will no longer be offering the Reid Method in its law enforcement training program.  After teaching the Reid Method for the past 33 years under a license agreement with John E. Reid & Associates, W-Z is now attempting to discredit the Reid Method as having “fallen under scrutiny due to its potential risk for eliciting false confessions,” a false narrative often advanced by defense attorneys.


Over the past 50 years, several hundred thousand law enforcement officers have taken our course.  It is regarded by the law enforcement community as the gold standard in interviewing and interrogating suspects in criminal investigations.  Using the Reid technique does not result in false confessions.  Just the opposite is true.  False confessions result when suspects in criminal investigations are interrogated using methods which we specifically advise NOT TO USE. 

Click here for our complete response


Calibre Press article by Owner Jim Glennon re the WZ Press Release

Does Reid & Associates teach officers a confrontational method of interviewing and interrogating that results in false confessions? I ask that question because recently they were basically accused of that. Or rather-the method they teach was accused of that.

So does their method result in false confessions? Not at all.

First it's important to address this at the outset: I have absolutely no relationship whatsoever with Reid & Associates, who I believe to have the premier interview and interrogation training program in the country. I have, however, been to more than a half a dozen classes, seminars and lectures conducted by them over my 30-year career.

Click here for complete article

  03/14/2017The International Encyclopedia of Interprersonal Communication includes an excellent article entitled, Interrogation.
The International Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Communication, First Edition, edited by Charles R. Berger and Michael E. Roloff (2016) includes an excellent article on current interrogation methodology by Stanley M. Slowik, president o Stanley M. Slowik, Inc.  Here is the article’s Abstract:
Interrogation is the art of persuading a guilty person to tell the truth.  Discussion includes interrogation behaviors that distinguish truth and deception, differences between interviews and interrogations, admissions and confessions, false expectations and false promises of leniency.  Interrogation methodologies are examined within the context of legality and effectiveness. 

Click here to access the article.

  01/25/2017How the Courts View the Reid Technique

As we move into 2017 we will be celebrating 70 years of excellence.  John E. Reid founded the company in 1947.  Over the last seven decades the Reid Technique of Interviewing and Interrogation has become the gold standard of the industry.

In July 2014, at the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys conference there was a presentation entitled, “Theories and Advocacy Strategies in False Confession Cases.”  The presenters were Steve Drizin, Center on Wrongful Convictions, Chicago, IL; Laura Nirider, Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, Chicago, IL.  In their presentation they stated that Reid is the gold standard on proper procedures, and that they regularly review and our materials to establish best practices and to point out what other investigators did that was improper.  They specifically reference our cautions re the questioning of juveniles.

We have prepared a PDF document and a Power Point program detailing the Core Principles of the Reid Technique and how the courts view the Reid Technique.  Here is the content of the material:

-  Core Principles of the Reid Technique                                                           

-  What is the Reid Technique?                                                                          

-  How the Courts View Minimization                                                              

-  How the Courts View Misrepresenting Evidence to the Suspect                  

-  How the Courts View Being Friendly and Empathetic with the Suspect      

-  How the Courts View the Alternative Question                                            

-  Several Courts have Admonished Investigators for Not Following Reid Guidelines

-  Federal Court - No Basis for the Claim that the Reid Technique is coercive

-  False Confession Expert Testimony About the “Coercive” Nature of the Reid Technique is Rejected 

-  Reid as the Gold Standard 

Click here for the Power Point program

Click here for the pdf

How Courts View the Reid Technique Dec 2016.pdf

  01/16/2017States that require electronic recording of interrogations

Attorney Thomas Sullivan has done extensive work on promoting the value of electronically recording interrogations and he has extensively surveyed police departments around the country to determine the extent of recording interrogations.  Attorney Sullivan has provided a list of 23 states and the District of Columbia that require that interrogations be electronically recorded. 

Click Here

Attorney Sullivan has also provided a Model Recording Act adopted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.  

Click here for Model Recording Act

  01/16/2017Recording Juvenile Interrogations in Illinois

Click below for a  copy of the legislation that modifies The Juvenile Court Act of 1987, expanding the requirement to electronically recored juvenile interrogations in Illinois.

Also, here is a link to the Chicago Police Department  Special Order regarding the electronic recording of interrogations of juveniles under 18 years of age:  

Click here for Copy of Legislation

  01/06/2017Excellent example of how false confession experts misrepresent what we teach in the Reid Technique

In State v. Tapke  the Court of Appeals of Ohio upheld the defendant's confession which was obtained by an officer who was trained in The Reid Technique. Dr. Richard Ofshe testified about false confessions and attempted to describe The Reid Technique. The jury subsequently rejected his testimony and "chose not to discredit it [the confession]."

It is interesting to note that in his testimony Dr. Ofshe testified that as part of The Reid Technique interrogators are taught the following:

"So what police have learned to do is to communicate the message through a series of suggestions… the idea being to communicate the understanding that there’s a deal on the table, but without ever explicitly saying here’s the deal.” He used the example of a person accused of GSI. He testified that the police would say something like this to a suspect: "[Y]ou're not a sexual predator; you're someone who needs treatment. What would you rather do, go to prison as a sex offender, or get some therapy in treatment."

It is interesting to note that the exact opposite is the case - we teach not to make any statements that refer to punishment, threats or promises of leniency and in our training seminars we highlight the case, Commonwealth v. DiGiambattista, in which the Massachusetts Supreme Court indicated that "what seemed to disturb the Court the most was the apparent reference to counseling which they felt "implicitly suggested to him that "counseling" would be an appropriate avenue for him to pursue after making a confession." In other words, if he confessed he would get counseling instead of jail." This is exactly what we teach not to do

Click here for the complete decision

  01/01/2017January/February 2017 Investigator Tip: Ten

Physical coercion, torture, duress, denial of rights, threats, and promises of leniency are the poison pills of legally admissible, reliable, and voluntary confessions.  Obviously we should not engage in such behaviors or any tactics that could render a confession involuntary.  This article is intended to assist the professional investigator by outlining statements and techniques that should be avoided so as to insure the integrity of the subject’s confession.

Click Here

  10/26/2016Dr. Richard Leo Testimony In Jimerson v. State (June 2016)

In Jimerson v. State (June 2016) Dr. Richard Leo testified about police interrogation techniques and specifically referenced the Reid Technique.  The following is a discussion of several statements that Dr. Leo made during his testimony (as stated in the court’s decision) and our response. Dr. Leo’s statements are in italics.

To view the testimony and response, click here

  10/25/2016The suggestion that the Reid Technique is prohibited in Great Britain (or any country) is a false statement

In a recent court case (Radilla-Esquivel v. State) and an article discussing false confessions, there were references that “the Reid Technique is prohibited in some countries.”  That is a false statement. 


Click here to read why this is false...

  09/08/2016September/October 2016 Investigator Tip: When Co-Offenders Are Being Interrogated Consider ìPlaying One Against the Otherî

"When two or more persons have collaborated in the commission of a criminal offense and are later apprehended for questioning, there is usually a nagging fear on the part of each participant that one of them will "talk." Individually, each of them may feel confident of his own ability to evade detection and to avoid confessing, but they generally do not experience a comparable degree of confidence with regard to the co-offender's ability or even willingness to do so. Uppermost in their minds is the possibility that one of them will confess in an effort to obtain special consideration.”

Click here for the complete tip.

  08/31/2016Dr. Richard Leo report describes his view of false confession issues and police interrogation techniques

In a recent report in an alleged false confession case, Dr. Richard Leo describes his view of current law enforcement interrogation techniques and the various issues associated with false confessions. Dr. Leo’s comments are reflective of the current approach that most false confession experts take when they discuss the issue.

Click here to view the key elements of the report.

  08/16/2016Westlaw recognizes the Reid Technique
In their annual publication, Law of Confessions 2016, published by Thomson Reuters Westlaw, the authors include the following comments in their discussion of interrogation approaches:
“Coercion can be psychological as well as physical.  This does not typically involve intimidation.  Modern police eschew these techniques, not just because they are unlawful, but because they are ineffective.  Police have been trained to use the “Reid technique,”  which calls for police to be patient and understanding, break down the suspect’s resistance to confessing by expressing confidence in the defendant’s guilt, and providing the suspect with explanations for the crime that place blame on others or rationalize the criminal behavior.” The authors then go on to detail the decision in U.S. Jacques, 744 F.3d 804 (1st Cir. 2014) which found that the various techniques that we teach “all fall safely within the realm of permissible” procedure that the courts have sanctioned.

  08/15/2016The confession of Brendan Dassey (ìMaking a Murdererî) ruled to be involuntary

In Dassey v. Dittmann (August 2016) the US District Court, E.D. Wisconsin, ruled that Brendan Dassey’s confession was involuntary.  Brendan Dassey’s confession to involvement in the murder of Teresa Halbach was depicted in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer”.  The District Court ruled that the confession was the result of promises of leniency.

The District Court stated that, “the state courts unreasonably found that the investigators never made Dassey any promises during the March 1, 2006 interrogation. The investigators repeatedly claimed to already know what happened on October 31 and assured Dassey that he had nothing to worry about. These repeated false promises, when considered in conjunction with all relevant factors, most especially Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, and the absence of a supportive adult, rendered Dassey’s confession involuntary under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

From the District Court’s opinion:

The court must look to all relevant facts to determine whether Dassey’s March 1 confession was voluntary. The interview occurred mid-day rather than in the early morning hours, or at a time when Dassey might expect to be asleep… The questioning was not particularly prolonged. Although Dassey was in the interview room from about 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., the relevant questioning spanned less than three hours…  Dassey was left alone for less than two hours, the longest single stretch being about 50 minutes. He was offered food and beverages. Although the interview occurred in a police station, it was in a “soft interview room,” with carpeting and upholstered furniture as opposed to a room with an uncarpeted floor, a hard table, and chairs. Wiegert advised Dassey of his rights under Miranda, including the right to not answer questions, to stop the questioning, and to have an attorney appointed for him and present during any questioning.

Dassey exhibited no signs of agitation or distress throughout the interview (he sobbed only after being told he was under arrest). The investigators maintained calm tones, never using aggressive or confrontational tactics. If these were the only relevant facts, they would tend to support a finding that the March 1 confession was voluntary. But when assessed against all of the circumstances of Dassey’s interrogation, these facts are overshadowed by far more consequential facts.

For starters, Dassey was a juvenile – only 16 years old – at the time of his confession.

Also significant is the fact that investigators questioned Dassey without the presence of a arent or other adult looking out for his interests.  It is true that neither federal law nor the United States Constitution requires that the police even inform a juvenile’s parents that the juvenile is being questioned or honor a juvenile’s request that a parent or other adult (other than a lawyer) be present during questioning…  However, because “[i]t is easier to overbear the will of a juvenile than of a parent or attorney, ... in marginal cases–when it appears the officer or agent has attempted to take advantage of the suspect’s youth or mental shortcomings–lack of parental or legal advice could tip the balance against admission.”

Not only did Dassey not have the benefit of an adult present to look out for his interests, the investigators exploited the absence of such an adult by repeatedly suggesting that
they were looking out for his interests: “I wanna assure you that Mark and I both are in your corner, we’re on your side ...” and “... I’m your friend right now, but I ... gotta believe in you and if I don’t believe in you, I can’t go to bat for you.”

Moreover, Dassey’s borderline to below average intellectual ability likely made
  him more susceptible to coercive pressures than a peer of higher intellect… Although he attended regular education classes, Dassey received special education support services.

Ten years earlier, his IQ was assessed at an overall score of 74.

Crucial in the voluntariness analysis is what the investigators told Dassey at the beginning of the interrogation. Fassbender assured Dassey, “from what I’m seeing ... I’m thinking you’re all right. OK, you don’t have to worry about things.”  In isolation, such a statement would not be a problem. Based on what the investigators actually knew at that time, they very possibly believed Dassey to be merely a witness.

However, less than two minutes later, Wiegert assured Dassey, “We  pretty much know everything[.] [T]hat’s why we’re talking to you again today.” … The combination of these statements, that the investigators already “pretty much know everything” and that Dassey did not “have to worry about things,” is an entirely different matter. The investigators were not merely telling Dassey, “Based upon what you have told us so far, we don’t think you have anything to worry about.”  Rather, what they told Dassey was, “We already know what happened and you don’t have anything to worry about.”  The investigators’ assertions that they already knew what happened and assurances that Dassey did not have anything to worry about were not confined to an isolated instance at the beginning but rather persisted throughout the interrogation.

Dassey’s conduct during the interrogation and his reaction to being told he was  under arrest clearly indicate that he really did believe that, if he told the investigators what they professed to already know, he would not be arrested for what he said.

The investigators’ statements were not merely ambiguous promises to Dassey that cooperating would lead to a better deal or that the investigators would “stand  behind” him or “go to bat” for him, … Rather, the investigators’ collective statements throughout the interrogation clearly led Dassey to believe that he would not be punished for telling them the incriminating details they professed to already know. While at one point Wiegert did rotely say, “We can’t make any promises...” this single, isolated statement was drowned out by the host of assurances that they already knew what happened and that Dassey had nothing to worry about.

Thus, the state courts’ finding that there were no “promises of leniency” was “against the clear and convincing weight of the evidence….”

The Supreme Court has long recognized that a false promise is a powerful force in overcoming a person’s free will…. Consequently, “[a] false promise of lenience is ‘an example of forbidden [interrogation] tactics, for it would impede the suspect in making an informed choice as to whether he was better off confessing or clamming up.’”

More than merely assuring Dassey that he would not be punished if he admitted  participating in the offenses, the investigators suggested to Dassey that he would  be punished if he did not tell “the truth.”
   Especially when the investigators’ promises, assurances, and threats of negative consequences are assessed in conjunction with Dassey’s age, intellectual deficits, lack of experience in dealing with the police, the absence of a parent, and other relevant personal characteristics, the free will of a reasonable person in Dassey’s position would  have been overborne. Once considered in this proper light, the conclusion that Dassey’s statement was involuntary under the totality of the circumstances is not one about which “fairminded jurists could disagree.”

That said, the court does not ascribe any ill motive to the investigators. Rather than an intentional and concerted effort to trick Dassey into confessing, what occurred here may have been the product of the investigators failing to appreciate how combining statements that they already “knew everything that happened” with assurances that Dassey was “OK” and had nothing to worry about collectively resulted in constitutionally impermissible promises.

Click here for the complete decision

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