Monday, October 19, 2015

False confessions: Author James Riordan takes on "The Reid Technique" in Bloomberg: "The number of false confessions have greatly increased since a method called the Reid Technique was adopted by police departments across the world."

ARTICLE: "False confessions on the rise: A well thought out scream," by James Riordan published by Bloomberg on October 18, 2015. (Rare is it that any author will have one of his books described as the definitive work on a particular subject, but such a distinction has been bestowed by critics on no less than four books written by James Riordan. The New York Times Bestseller Break on Through, Riordan’s biography of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, has not only been called “the most objective, thorough and professional Morrison biography” by the Times Book Review but also named as one of the Ten All Time Best Rock Biographies by

GIST: "The number of false confessions have greatly increased since a method called the Reid Technique was adopted by police departments across the world.  The Reid technique’s nine steps of interrogation are: Step 1 – Direct confrontation. Advise the subject that the evidence has led the police to the individual as a suspect. Offer the person an early opportunity to explain why the offense took place.  Step 2 – Try to shift the blame away from the suspect to some other person or set of circumstances that prompted the suspect to commit the crime. That is, develop themes containing reasons that will psychologically justify or excuse the crime. Themes may be developed or changed to find one to which the accused is most responsive; Step 3 – Try to discourage the suspect from denying his or her guilt. Reid training video: “If you’ve let him talk and say the words ‘I didn’t do it’[…]the more difficult it is to get a confession.” Step 4 – At this point, the accused will often give a reason why he or she did not or could not commit the crime. Try to use this to move towards the confession. Step 5 – Reinforce sincerity to ensure that the suspect is receptive. Step 6 – The suspect will become quieter and listen. Move the theme discussion towards offering alternatives. If the suspect cries at this point, infer guilt. Step 7 – Pose the “alternative question”, giving two choices for what happened; one more socially acceptable than the other. The suspect is expected to choose the easier option but whichever alternative the suspect chooses, guilt is admitted. There is always a third option which is to maintain that they did not commit the crime. Step 8 – Lead the suspect to repeat the admission of guilt in front of witnesses and develop corroborating information to establish the validity of the confession. Step 9 – Document the suspect’s admission or confession and have him or her prepare a recorded statement (audio, video or written).
Critics of the technique claim it too easily produces false confessions, especially with children. The use of the Reid technique on youth is prohibited in several European countries because of the incidence of false confessions and wrongful convictions that result. On the other hand, in recent cases it should be noted that the courts have admonished the investigators for not following the guidelines and safeguards that the Reid Technique employs to protect the juvenile or mentally impaired individual from making a coerced or false confession; 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.” John E. Reid and Associates maintains that “it’s not the technique that causes false or coerced confessions but police detectives who apply improper interrogation procedures.” On the other hand, the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that several of the core elements of the Reid Technique are in complete compliance with legal practices: “There is nothing problematic or objection-able about police, when questioning suspects, in downplaying or minimizing the moral culpability of their alleged criminal activity. I find there was nothing improper in these and other similar transcript examples where [the detective] minimized [the accused’s] moral responsibility.”  It was discovered in December 2013 that an unredacted copy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation  interrogation manual had been impermissibly placed in the Library of Congress and was available for public view. The manual confirmed American Civil Liberties Union concerns that the agency used the Reid technique. In 2015, eight organizations, including John E. Reid & Associates settled with Juan Rivera, a Waukegan, Illinois man who was wrongfully convicted of the 1992 rape and murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker. A number of pieces of evidence excluded Rivera, including DNA from the rape kit and the report from the electronic ankle monitor he was wearing at the time while awaiting trial for a non-violent burglary. However, he confessed after being interrogated for several days. Rivera was taken to Reid headquarters in Chicago twice during the investigation for polygraph tests, which indicated deception regarding his alibi. After his exoneration, Rivera filed a suit for false arrest and malicious prosecution. The case was settled out of court with John E. Reid & Associates paying $2 million. The Reid Technique consists of a three-phase process beginning with Fact Analysis, followed by the Behavior Analysis Interview (which is a non-accusatory interview designed to develop investigative and behavioral information), followed by, when appropriate, the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation. 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. The interrogation is in the form of a monologue presented by the investigator rather than a question and answer format. The demeanor of the investigator during the course of an interrogation is ideally understanding, patient, and non-demeaning. His or her goal is to make the suspect progressively more and more comfortable with acknowledging the presumed truth about what he or she is alleged to have done. This is accomplished by the investigators’ first imagining and then offering the subject various psychological constructs as justification for their behavior. For example, an admission of guilt might be prompted by the question, “Did you plan this out or did it just happen on the spur of the moment?” This technique uses a loaded question that contains the unspoken, implicit assumption of guilt. The idea is that the person under interrogation must catch the hidden assumption and contest it to avoid the trap. Critics regard this strategy as hazardous, arguing that it is subject to confirmation bias (likely to reinforce inaccurate beliefs or assumptions) and may lead to prematurely narrowing an investigation..".........Solutions: More than 20 states, from North Carolina to Massachusetts to Illinois, require the recording of custodial interrogations through law or court action.  More than a thousand additional law enforcement agencies voluntarily record interrogations. A 2004 study conducted by the Center on Wrongful Convictions of more than 200 locations that implemented this reform found that police departments overwhelmingly embrace the measure as good law enforcement practice whose time has come. Proactive policies like these have been adopted because the practice benefits police and prosecutors as well as innocent suspects.

The entire article can be found at:

For Joseph Buckley's defence of the Reid Technique see the following link: ) "The Reid technique; Joseph Buckley, President of Reid and Associates, responds to a recent post by Ottawa criminal lawyer Solomon Friedman centered around a commentary published in the Ottawa Citizen headed "Reid it and weep - coercive interrogations the norm in Canada."..."The purpose of an interrogation is to learn the truth. A common misperception exists in believing that the purpose of an interrogation  is to elicit a confession.... If the suspect can be eliminated [from suspicion] based on his or her behavior or explanations offered during the interrogation, the interrogation must be considered successful because the truth was learned."   It has been suggested in Canada that it is more effective to conduct a non-accusatory interview in which the investigator tries to build rapport with the subject and develop the truth about the relevant investigative information without any accusations or psychological trickery (referred to as the PEACE Model) - this is exactly what we do in the Reid Technique by beginning with a non-accusatory, fact finding interview process as outlined in our text.  In our book several chapters devoted to the topic of conducting the non-accusatory interview."