Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bulletin: Hephzibah Olivia Lord: Jury finds Dallas detective violated her civil rights by maliciously having her arrested for murder she didn't commit; Awards her almost $800,000 in this civil trial in federal court; Dallas News. Includes link to commentary by Dallas Morning News editorial writer Tod Robberson: "Hephzibah Lord's court victory underscores need for Dallas police investigators to end tough guy technique." (Must, Must read. HL);

PUBLISHER'S NOTE:  There is  increasing  recognition that use of the Reid  interrogation technique - which  can involve lies, trickery and deception as well as aggressive questioning  -  is based on false psychological assumptions and can  lead to false confessions. The Charles Smith Blog is following developments relating to  this widespread investigative technique.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

STORY: "Jury says Dallas police detective acted with malice in false arrest of woman," by reporter Kevin Krause, published by the Dallas News on January 17, 2014.

GIST: "A jury ruled on Friday that a Dallas homicide detective violated a woman’s civil rights by maliciously having her arrested for a murder she didn’t commit. The jury of three men and four women awarded Hephzibah Olivia Lord about $800,000 following a civil trial in federal court in Dallas that lasted over a week. Lord’s attorney, Don Tittle, said he expects the total sum to exceed $1 million when other fees are factored in. The city will have to pay the award because the detective, Dwayne Thompson, was acting in his capacity as an employee, he said. “I’m overwhelmed. I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time,” Lord said. “It’s been a very difficult fight. Very emotional. I needed to believe in our system again. I needed faith back, so I can grieve.” The jury agreed that Thompson showed a reckless disregard for Lord’s rights in having her arrested for the 2010 shooting death of her boyfriend, Michael Burnside. Jurors also ruled that Thompson, 51, who still believes her guilty, did not act in good faith. City attorneys had defended Thompson, a 22-year veteran of the police department, saying he acted on the information he had at the time. Lord, 36, spent nine days in jail after her arrest. A Dallas County grand jury later declined to indict her."

The entire story can be found at:

See commentary by Dallas Morning News editorial writer Tod Robberson: "The training Thompson received to elicit a confession is pretty consistent across police departments, according to the New Yorker article. You look at body language — obvious nervousness, rubbing the face and eyes, an inability to look the questioner in the eye. You look for inconsistencies. You ask leading questions and deliberately introduce lies and misleading “evidence” to make the suspect think you have more against her than you really do. You dominate the suspect and deliberately tower over him or her in order to establish your authority. (Thompson did pretty much all of this.) You bring in a folder full of stuff to make it look like the investigation results are in. Then you make clear to the suspect that this is an open-and-shut case: You’re guilty, now confess. Instead of asking, “Did you kill your boyfriend?” you ask: “Why are your fingerprints on the gun?” or “How come your neighbor says you admitted killing him?” If you read through the New Yorker piece (sorry folks, but you have to have a subscription), and compare what are known as Reid interrogation method to the techniques employed by Thompson, you’ll have a much clearer idea of why Lord’s case is such a big deal. Thompson was trained in the Reid method, according to one of his lawyers. It’s one thing to induce extreme mental anguish in an effort to break down a suspect and get her to confess. It’s an entirely different thing to refuse to give up when the suspect won’t confess, and then to jail her for nine days. Thompson refused to be convinced by the evidence at the scene — and by the absolute failure of his high-pressure tactics — that Burnside killed himself. So he violated Lord’s civil rights just so he wouldn’t be humiliated into admitting his hunch was wrong. The jury’s favorable verdict for Lord helps ensure the message will get through to police departments everywhere that eliciting a false confession and sending an innocent person to prison (or to Death Row) badly undermines public confidence in law enforcement. It is not justice. In fact, it’s the worst injustice of all."

See related Wrongful Convictions Blog post: "As Grits noted on Wednesday, to me it wasn't just Thompson on trial but the Reid technique of interrogation, whose central tenets were on display in Lord's interrogation video: Intimidation, accusation, psychological manipulation, lying about evidence, cutting off denials ... these methods are taught to police interrogators across the country and, as Mr. Sanders told the jury, amount to a "formula for a false confession." The Reid technique was developed to fill a void in the years after "third-degree" interrogation tactics were banned, using psychological manipulation rather than physical force to coerce interrogations but based on a similar approach. The US Supreme Court's famous Miranda warning was instituted in part as a (insufficient) buttress against the method's coercive tactics. Ironically, one of the most prominent cases on which Det. John Reid, its creator who built a consulting empire around the approach, built his reputation in the 1950s resulted in a false confession that wasn't exposed until the poor forester, Darrel Parker, was exonerated and released in 1991. "In August 2012, the state of Nebraska issued a declaration of innocence to Parker and agreed to pay him $500,000. Attorney General Jon Bruning publicly declared that Parker was wrongly convicted and apologized." In the U.K. and several other countries, the Reid technique has been abandoned in favor of a less confrontational method focused more on gathering information than extracting a confession. Dubbed the PEACE technique, the name is a mnemonic for Preparation and Planning; Engage and Explain; Account, Clarify and Challenge; Closure; and Evaluation. In the United States, though, the Reid method reigns supreme. One reason police have resisted requirements to record interrogations - despite the superior evidential value of recordings in court - is that Reid methods often appear coercive and prejudicial to an outside viewer. That's because they are. When they're employed against a guilty suspect, people don't tend to care. But when they're employed against the innocent, they undermine the credibility of the investigation and the investigator. And in the case of Hephzibah Olivia Lord, a Dallas jury decided that, coupled with her false arrest, it violated her civil rights."


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