Friday, January 15, 2016
How cops elicit false confessions from innocent people
HAVE you ever wondered why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit? Surely if someone knows they are innocent why would they own up to something they didn’t do?
It turns out persuading someone to confess is much easier than you think, thanks to an interrogation technique used widely by law enforcement in the US.
Over the past few weeks much has been made of the seemingly coerced confession of Brendan Dassey, the nephew of Steven Avery, the man at the centre of the Netflix true-crime docuseries, Making a Murderer.
If you are unfamiliar with the 10-part program, Avery spent 18 years in jail for a rape he didn’t commit. Two years after he was exonerated he was charged, and later convicted, along with Dassey, of the murder of Teresa Halbach, a photographer who took pictures of a car he was about to sell.
The series delves into the case against the pair and the tactics used by police to supposedly get their man.
While there were a few jaw-dropping revelations that poked holes in the case against Avery, one of the most controversial stemmed around the videotaped confessions of Dassey.
The footage shows the then 16-year-old Dassey, whose IQ puts him in the range of intellectual disability, being interrogated by officers without an adult or lawyer present and being pressured into admitting his part in the crime despite appearing confused.
This interrogation process is known as the Reid Technique, a controversial nine-step interrogation tactic that aims to wear down a suspect until you get a confession.
Mark Nolan, associate professor at ANU’s College of Law, told news.com.au the technique, which was developed in the 1950s, is used when authorities believe the suspect is guilty.
The whole process changes from fact-finding to confirming guilt. Questioning of a suspect becomes intimidating, interrogations last for hours and can result in people making false confessions just to get out of their current predicament.
Mr Nolan said criticism around the practice stemmed from the fact the sole aim of interviewing someone using the Reid Technique was to elicit a confession.
“So what they do [at this stage] is not actually take any transcripts or notes of the interview until the last moment when confession takes place,” he said. “So what you have in America is not a whole lot of audiovisual recording of what happened in the interview stage or the interrogation phase up until the point the confession is obtained.
“There is a lot that can be missed out on in the record of interview compared to Australia. They just record the very last bit under the interrogation plan which is not always discussed but in some of these steps you can have people using deception such as a folder of information that supposedly has evidence that they wave under the interviewee’s nose and say ‘we’ve got all this information against you’.”
Mr Nolan said the Reid Technique is not used in Australia because it conflicts with our evidence laws. A technique known as conversation management is used instead.
Mr Nolan also said the introduction of audiovisual recording has made it harder for authorities in Australia to get away with it.
“The culture and practice of interviewing really changes when audiovisual recording of the entire interview is the [mandated] practice,” Mr Nolan explained. “Also, if obtaining a confession from someone you are convinced is guilty is thought to be the sole purpose of the interview/interrogation, then, the strategies and techniques used are often more coercive and are aimed at inducing confessions.
“In Australia, evidence law makes it easy to exclude confessions in interviews when the interviewer has used deception or been coercive in their questioning style.
“Doing so with a vulnerable witness [age, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, cognitive impairment] on their own without a lawyer or a support person [which was the case with Dassey] is not only unethical, but illegal most of the time in Australia.”
And while the Reid Technique is not supposed to be used in Australia, Mr Nolan said there have been times when authorities have overstepped the mark.
One such case was the matter against Izhar ul-Haque, a medical student who was accused of being a terror suspect.
ASIO confronted ul-Haque, forced him into a car, then took him to a park where he was threatened unless he co-operated.
They later charged him with training with the Pakistani-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
But the NSW Supreme Court threw out the case saying the officers had not only broken the law by kidnapping ul-Haque but deliberately attempted to coerce answers from him.
Original report here
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Posted by bussorah at 7:33 AM