PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The following article, published by 'Law Officer,' indicates that the decision by Wicklander-Zulawski to stop training detectives in The Reid Technique because of the risk of false confessions "has shaken the profession." This is not about a passing controversy that can be contained by a damage control press release issued by Reid and Associates - but is rather about a powerful police tool far too open to abuse and wrongful convictions, which has been in use since 1984. All the more reason for media to exercise their watchdog function by reporting on local police forces (As investigative reporter Anne Schindler does here) and police commissions (and prosecution agencies) to see if they intend to continue using the much-maligned approach - and whether they are exploring less-confrontational (and thereby less risky) interrogations methods. (And judges in trial and appeal courts - and jurors - should be extra vigilant when statements taken through application of the Reid method are introduced into their courtrooms.)
Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;
Anne Schindler joined First Coast News in August 2012 as Executive Producer of Special Projects. She landed in Florida after earning her cold-weather chops attending school in Madison, Wisconsin and balancing bartending/reporting duties in Minneapolis, where she had the privilege of working under the late, great David Carr. Before moving into television, she spent 17 years as a print reporter and editor in Jacksonville. Schindler has earned two Emmy nominations, and won an Emmy in the Serious Feature category for her story on Floridians chasing the oil boom in North Dakota."
"The "good cop/bad cop” drill is familiar to any fan of police procedurals. But they aren’t just fictional TV characters. They’re part of an interrogation technique created in the 1940s by a former Chicago police detective John Reid. The nine-step Reid Technique relies on other easily recognizable law enforcement tropes: tiny interrogation rooms, combative questioning, and a refusal to accept – or even listen to -- pleas of innocence. The technique was once the gold standard of police interrogations, but that’s changing. One of the largest police consulting firms in the world announced last week that it will no longer teach the Reid method, saying it elicits unreliable testimony and false confessions. In a video statement on its website, Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates says it’s tossing the technique due to the “inherent risks and pitfalls of using a confrontational, emotional approach” to interviews. The company’s Director of Investigations Dave Thompson observes the technique “can lead to horrendous miscarriages of justice.” Shane Sturman, company president and CEO, told First Coast News response to the change "has been very positive." "You get better information" with less confrontational tactics, he said. Jacksonville criminal defense attorney Ann Finnell agrees. “Anything that’s designed to get a confession is the wrong approach,” she says. “What they should be designed to do is get to the truth.” According to national data by the Innocence Project, about a third of all DNA-based exonerations since 1989 involved false confessions. Research has found everything from interrogation fatigue to sleep deprivation can contribute. But confessions are incredibly persuasive, and juries are inclined to give them great weight. “Think about how a jury perceives a confession,” Finnell says. “It may be better than DNA. It’s perhaps the most damning evidence against an individual there can be.” John Reid & Associates defends the technique, saying unreliable confessions aren’t the fault of the technique, but unskilled practitioners.........Former JSO homicide detective RV Nelson says Reid “was very popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s.” He saw use of the technique diminish over in his 30 years with JSO. “Some people think it's the best thing around, some cringe when you mention it,” he says. Though he was regarded as one of the department's most skilled interrogators, he chose not to use the Reid method. “If it is one that causes you to be in someone’s face and be confrontational … it does more than harm than good,” he says. Finnell routinely asks in deposition whether detectives have trained in Reid, and says they almost always say yes. “It’s the most pervasive technique that’s used.” She believes the focus on confessions skews the outcome. "The interrogation technique is designed to get a confession, whether you’re guilty or not," she says. "The problem you’re running into is, you’re not only going to get confessions from those people, you’re going to get confessions from people who didn't do anything wrong. For instance: Brenton Butler." The Butler case is among the most troubling in city history. Wrongfully accused, a 15-year-old confessed to the brutal murder of an elderly Georgia tourist. The teen was eventually acquitted, after spending 6-and-a-half months in jail. The sheriff and state attorney even publicly apologized. But the case showed the power of a coerced confession. It also changed policing in Jacksonville. JSO began videotaping confessions as a direct result of the Butler case. Still, a confession – regardless of how it was obtained – remains the strongest tool against any defendant. “Unless I can prove that confession was false or that those techniques were over the top, I’m sunk in terms of defending that person. If a jury believes it, that person is going to jail," says Finnell."
See Wikipedia account of the Brenton Butler case at the link below; "In May 2000, two tourists from Florida were accosted outside the Ramada Inn on University Boulevard. Mary Ann Stephens was shot in the head in front of her husband and the killer fled. During the subsequent investigation, police picked up Butler, a 15-year-old student at Englewood High School who was on his way to submit a job application to a local Blockbuster Video. Butler was brought to the victim's husband, who identified him as the killer. Police brought Butler in for questioning without a parent or attorney present or informing his parents of his whereabouts, and coerced him into confessing to the murder by signing a timeline of events written by Detective Williams. State Attorney Harry Shorstein decided to prosecute the case. During the trial, Butler went on to testify that two detectives involved in the investigation, including Michael Glover, son of the then current Sheriff Nat Glover, had physically abused him and intimidated him into confessing. Butler was represented by Patrick McGuinness and Ann Finnell, two attorneys from the Public defenders office. They supplied a photograph of Butler with bruises on his face, which they claimed was the result of the interrogation. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding Butler not guilty; one juror later cited the testimony about the interrogation as one of the key factors in their decision. State Attorney Shorstein and Jacksonville Sheriff Glover took the unusual steps of apologizing to Butler and re-opening the case of two unrelated suspects. However, Michael Glover denied the allegations against him, and Shorstein said there was no evidence that Butler had been physically abused during the interrogation...After the case, the State Attorney's Office launched a grand jury investigation into the conduct of the officers and prosecutors, while the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office began an internal affairs investigation. The grand jury investigation criticized the prosecutor and police for their handling of the case but found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The police disciplinary board sought the suspension of three officers and other penalties for two more, but these measures were later largely overturned. Michael Glover retired from JSO and became a private investigator, while Dwayne Darnell was transferred from the homicide division. The Butler case opened up discussion about the video taping of police interrogations. At the time of the investigation, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was in discussions over implementing video recording during interrogations. The office had purchased the equipment and was prepared to start taping interrogations, but held off at the request of the State Attorney's Office. After the grand jury investigation, the Sheriff's office began taping interrogations of juvenile suspects, and implemented other procedural changes recommended by the jury. The Butler case was the subject of the French documentary film Murder on a Sunday Morning, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 74th Academy Awards in 2001. The documentary follows Butler's defense team as they build their case for his innocence. In 2004, Butler wrote a book about his experience, entitled They Said It Was Murder."]
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. 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: http://www.thestar.com/topic/