Sunday, February 26, 2012

I Confess! (And I'm not a Hitchcock film)

I meant to blog about this New York Times editorial days ago, but I got distracted. By the ballet. (Romeo & Juliet. Spoiler alert: they die.) By that little Kansas-Missouri basketball game. (Learn what a backcourt violation is before whining that we didn't get called for one when we didn't commit one, MU geniuses.) And by $5 wine night at Genovese. (Thanks, friend.)

But you all should read the opinion piece. Because this is a question that comes up a lot. Why would an innocent person confess to something s/he didn't do? Most of us really can't wrap our minds around that idea. Of course, most of us have never been subjected to a Reid technique interrogation as the suspect in a crime, so we probably don't have a basis of knowledge on the topic. From DNA exoneration cases, though, we know that about 20% of wrongful conviction cases involve false confessions, so we probably need to get over our own inability to comprehend and simply accept that it happens.

I would like us to get to this point of simple acceptance because I don't think we'll address the question of how do we prevent false confessions until we do accept that they happen. And I do think we need to address the question of preventing false confessions.

I have been concerned about the Reid Technique of interrogation for years. It seems to be the technique used most frequently throughout this country's police stations. But I don't think the technique is designed to get the truth out of suspects of witnesses. It is designed to get confessions from individuals police have already decided are the suspects. Thanks to the DNA exoneration cases, we can now see how often the technique leads to confessions by individuals who were not responsible. And yet, the technique is still used with reckless abandon.

In Sarah's dream world, where I'm in charge of everything, police would stop using this technique yesterday. But I'm not in charge, so the best I can do is spread word about how easy it is to get an innocent person to confess to a crime he didn't commit by using this technique.

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