The Reid Interrogation Technique OR How to Elicit a False Confession

Unless you are a police officer you probably haven’t heard of the Reid Interrogation Technique. I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, so instead of trying to explain what exactly this technique is, I’ll simply direct you to the Wikipedia page – which gives a pretty good explanation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reid_technique

“In the Reid technique, interrogation is an accusatory process in which the investigator tells the suspect that there is no doubt as to his or her guilt.” Further, during the interrogation, the cop (or interrogator) repeatedly tries to separate the accused from “people who are even worse” and tries to minimize the alleged conduct of the accused. For example, if the allegation is that the accused raped someone, the interrogator will repeatedly tell the accused that he believes the accused is not a serial rapist, but only someone that did it one time and therefore it’s not that bad.

The interrogation itself can last for several hours, and the goal is simple: To wear the person down and get them to confess.

But herein lies the problem.

If I told you that you murdered someone, of course you would adamantly deny it, because it’s simply not true. But if I kept you in a room, and told you that there were witnesses, and that I knew for a fact you have murdered someone, and I gave you explicit details about how you had done it, and I sympathized with you (“well, the person you murdered was a horrible person”), and I promised leniency (“if it was only one time, the prosecutor will go easy on you,” and “we won’t let the details go outside this office”), and I kept you there for hours – repeatedly telling you that I know you did it, and I told you that this interrogation would stop as soon as you admitted what you had done, you may eventually admit to something that you HADN’T ACTUALLY DONE just to make the interrogation stop.

Right now you may be thinking, “but I would never admit to something that I hadn’t done.” Yet, the fact of the matter is that people do. The Technique plays with your mind, alters your sense of what is right and wrong, repeatedly accuses you of something, wears you down, and eventually convinces you that you are guilty; that you actually did do what the police are accusing you of having done.

This is the Reid Technique.

The problem is that we know that the Reid Technique has produced numerous false confessions. There are many, many cases where a person confessed, and later the confession was found to be false. If you want to read a very good article about some of these false-confession cases, click here —> http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/12/09/the-interview-7

In fact, the use of the Reid Technique has been banned in several countries because it routinely produces false confessions. “In Canada, a Provincial Court judge ruled in 2012 that “stripped to its bare essentials, the Reid Technique is a guilt-presumptive, confrontational, psychologically manipulative procedure whose purpose is to extract a confession.” This is scary stuff!

Neil and I, and another attorney – Shannon Smith, began the defense of a case a few months ago in which the Reid Technique was utilized by local police. After doing a lot of research, we believe that the police officer improperly utilized the Technique and that his improper use resulted in a false confession. Now we have to prove it.

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