Would You Confess?
Innocent suspects often confess to crimes they did not commit. Police interrogation techniques are usually the reason.
A confession is often seen as the gold standard of evidence for prosecutors. If a criminal defendant confesses, their work is done. They have no burden of proof to carry, no evidence that needs to be admitted to the record, no witnesses need to testify. As with plea bargains, a confession greatly aids the "administration of justice."
Confessions are powerful because most people believe that no one would confess to a crime they did not commit, absent physical torture. In most jurisdictions, including South Carolina, the days of law enforcement "working over" suspects to force confessions, is thankfully over. Nevertheless, that does not mean police do not coerce confessions.
The aim of interrogation methods
The goal of most police interrogations is not an open-ended search for the truth, but to obtain evidence or a confession of a suspect's guilt. The third-degree was effective in obtaining confessions, but typically not very accurate.
As court decisions ended the practice of physical torture to coerce confessions from suspects, the police shifted their methods. Interrogation became a psychological game, where police used a wide variety of methods, including isolation, sleep deprivation, "good cop, bad cop," lack of food, lying to suspects, and other psychological tools.
Police often use variations on the Reid Technique, a style of interrogation named after the officer who developed it. It is premised on the idea that a trained officer can detect lies of suspects using certain, often confusing questions, by observing how a suspect answers and their behavior. It has been found to be widely inaccurate, but like many habits, variations are still employed.
Ironically, the Reid Technique was seen as an advancement and a more enlightened approach to interrogation compared to physical beatings. Unfortunately, it was based on a flawed understanding of how human psychology works. It often does result in a confession, and sometimes those confessions are valid. However, in many cases, it can lead to an innocent individual's confession.
The problem is, for all its claims to being an instrument for finding the truth and serving justice, the criminal justice system is primarily designed to move people from suspicion to conviction. Once the process believes someone is guilty, there are few checks to rigorously ensure an innocent person is not wrongly convicted.
This is why if you have been arrested it is important to remain silent and ask for an attorney. However, if you have answered some questions, all may not be lost. The experienced attorneys at Aaron & Aaron have dealt with many situations like this, and they understand how to handle your criminal charges and will work to minimize the potential negative consequences of an arrest.
Lies, lies and lies
Another frequently used technique is outright lying. Police will tell suspects they have found evidence that links them to the crime, fingerprints, blood or anything else. They will say someone else involved has implicated them. They will describe a parade of horribles of the bad things that will happen if they do not confess or how prosecutors may "go easy" if they cooperate.
The courts allow this type of questioning despite evidence that it leads to false confessions and injustice. Many courts appear reticent at the prospect of rulings that would impede the overall pace of police investigations, as if their job is to speed up the process of convicting suspects as opposed to ensuring justice is carried out.
These techniques are all designed to obtain a conviction. The best defense for anyone, especially if you are innocent, is to assert your Miranda Rights, ask for an attorney and end the interrogation by stating politely that you will not answer any questions.
The attorneys at Aaron & Aaron have the experience to protect you or a family member from aggressive and coercive police interrogations. Only your attorney has your best interests in mind; everyone else is interesting in convicting you.
By remaining silent, you ensure the police do not obtain anything that can later be twisted or taken out of context, and you give yourself a much better chance of obtaining justice.