Saturday, January 18, 2014

Daniel Villegas: Important Texas Monthly article demonstrates how DNA evidence and "all the promising new technologies in criminal science " can be little help in cases where a false confession comes into play - and also performs a valuable public service by exposing the increasingly apparent flaws in the "Reid Technique" - a widely used interrogation method developed in the 1950's. (Must Read. HL);

STORY: "How to get a teenager to admit to a murder he didn't commit," by Nate Blakeslee, published by Texas Monthly on January 8, 2014.

SUB-HEADING:  "An El Paso police investigator bullied sixteen-year-old Daniel Villegas into falsely confessing to two murders. Where were his parents? Where was his lawyer? And why, after eighteen years in prison, does the district attorney want to keep him locked up?"

GIST:  "The second thing that sank Villegas, of course, was his false confession, a phenomenon that is harder to understand, but no less common. Most of the cases in the recent wave of exonerations in Texas have been based on new analysis of DNA evidence not presented at the original trial. Yet many of those same convictions also involved false confessions, a fact that tends to get lost in the discussion of  all the promising new technologies in criminal science. What happens if you don’t have DNA evidence to back up your claims of innocence? Usually, not much. If Villegas is eventually exonerated, it may be the first time that someone who was convicted based on a false confession is set free without DNA evidence confirming his or her innocence. But why would anyone confess to something he didn’t do? A lengthy New Yorker story published last month attempted to answer that question by delving into the fascinating details of the Reid Technique, a commonly used interrogation method developed in the fifties by a polygraph expert named John Reid. Rather than verbally and physically abusing suspects, which was the preferred tactic in most police stations at the time, Reid used psychological techniques to great effect—punishing responses that didn’t lead toward confession and subtly rewarding those that did, until the exhausted suspect came to understand that pleasing Reid was the only way to extricate himself from the tiny room and the overbearing men inside it. Over the years, the Reid Technique and similar methods became the norm in law enforcement. Only now, decades later, are some observers beginning to question whether it leads to the truth or merely to confessions: A growing number of scientists and legal scholars . . . have raised concerns about Reid-style interrogation. Of the three hundred and eleven people exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing, more than a quarter had given false confessions—including those convicted in such notorious cases as the Central Park Five. The extent of the problem is unknowable, because there’s no national database on wrongful convictions. But false confessions, which often lead to these convictions, are not rare, and experts say that Reid-style interrogations can produce them. Adolescents are particularly prone to false confessions, a phenomenon detailed in an amicus brief filed in Villegas’s case  by the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at the Northwestern University School of Law. In a 2005 study of 340 exonerations, researchers found that juvenile exonerees were three times as likely as adults to have given a false confession. “Juveniles are categorically less able to see the long-term consequences of their actions,” said Northwestern’s Josh Topfer, who worked on Villegas’s case. “If you are just focused on getting out of that interrogation room, you might say anything,” he said. “When you were a kid, could you really fathom that somebody might get life in prison for something they didn’t do?”"

The entire story can be found at:

Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case.

I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:
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