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Rethinking the value of a controversial interview technique

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2022 | Criminal Justice System

Wrongful convictions occur for various reasons and can devastate the lives of many innocent people in Tennessee and other states. Inaccurate eyewitness or informant testimony and forensic evidence errors are often responsible for unjust results.

Unfortunately, the popular Reid interrogation technique that most law enforcement professionals use can also lead to wrongful criminal convictions by encouraging false confessions.

What is the Reid technique?

This three-phase interrogation method starts with a factual analysis of a crime scene and the identification of suspects. Next, during the interview phase, the investigator poses mundane and provocative questions to a subject while noting behavioral changes that reveal the truthfulness of the answers. Finally, the investigator conducts the third interrogation phase.

How can the interrogation phase lead to false confessions?

Investigators use the final interrogation phase of the Reid technique to obtain confessions, but too often, innocent parties feel pressure to claim responsibility for crimes.

Opponents of the Reid technique may argue that although investigators receive training to discern when suspects lie during the interview, their assessments may be inaccurate. In addition, innocent subjects are often vulnerable to psychological manipulation at the heart of the Reid technique. They may confess when interrogators promise leniency and an end to the grueling interrogation.

What are the consequences of false confessions?

Unfortunately, a false confession almost always leads to a conviction, even when other evidence does not support a conviction. As a result, innocent people may spend years of their lives in prison, and actual perpetrators may go free or continue to commit crimes.

DNA testing and the work of nonprofits like the Tennessee Innocence Project can help overturn wrongful convictions. But unfortunately, those responsible for crimes (and their victims) do not always receive justice.

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