Many people who are accused of a crime have the strong natural desire to speak to the police to clear their name or to “explain” how their innocent actions were misconstrued. This is almost always a devastating mistake.
Generally, when a detective makes contact and wants to speak to you, the detective has already made up his or her mind as to whether you are guilty or innocent. They make snap judgments, profile people and stereotype different races and cultures.
What interrogation techniques do police officers use?
In fact, police officers are generally trained in “The Reid Method” of interrogation. This method accuses the person being interviewed by telling the accused that the results of the investigation clearly indicate he or she committed the crime. The officer attempts to use other techniques during the Reid Method to make the accused more comfortable in “telling the truth” which–DNA testing and historical data have now proven–more often than not elicits a false confession.
We have all seen these types of confessions on true crime shows. The suspect is locked in a small room for hours on end while a couple of detectives bombard, accuse, coax, and persuade the suspect to admit what is “already known”—that he or she is guilty. Psychologists now know that this “Reid Method” process can cause the most innocent of people to falsely confession to almost anything just to get out of the horrifying position of being interrogated.
There is an amazing documentary titled, “Murder on a Sunday Morning” that chillingly demonstrates exactly how police officers in Florida used the Reid Method and other coercive techniques to elicit a false confession to murder from a teenage suspect who was later proven to be stone cold innocent.
Your Right to Remain Silent.
The “Right to Remain Silent” has a fascinating historical background. It essentially arose out of the authorities in Europe using torture and other horrific means of coercion to force confessions to crimes. As such the Founding Fathers ratified the 5th Amendment in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. The 5th Amendment covers much more than the right to not incriminate oneself.
One of the most famous examples of “suspects” exercising their rights to remain silent is in the Jon Benet Ramsey case. Jon Benet’s parents refused to speak to the police for decades despite DNA evidence later proving they were totally innocent. The Ramsey’s attorneys rightly believed that the risk of a false confession or misstatement or mis-recollection of a single small fact could have caused their clients to end up in prison or worse—facing the death penalty.
This is no small risk. In the 2000’s the Governor of Illinois suspended the death penalty when the Innocence Project used DNA and other evidence to prove that THIRTEEN inmates on Death Row were totally innocent! Most of the innocent death row inmates were there due to false confessions.
Do cops have to read you your rights?
Because of widespread police abuse, in 1966 the US Supreme Court held in the famous case of Miranda v. Arizona that statements made by an accused could only be used at trial if the prosecution could first prove: (1) that the accused was informed of his or her right to an attorney to be present before and during questioning at no cost; (2) that the accused had the right to remain silent and that anything he or she said could be used against him or her in a court of law; and (3) that the accused understood those rights and specifically waived those rights.
The problem is that shockingly few accused actually exercise those rights and as such, end up in prison when he or she would have otherwise been let free. Remember, not only are police officers trained in the Reid Method, but many other psychological techniques to obtain a confession. A conviction is almost universally a slam dunk for the prosecution once a confession has been obtained—for obvious reasons.
Shockingly, way too many judges and prosecutors do not even care if the accused is innocent or not. They simply want their convictions. This is most famously demonstrated by the direct quote of Judge Sharon Keller who was presiding on the Court of Appeals for the State of Texas when she stated, “We can’t give new trials to everyone who establishes, after conviction, that they might be innocent. We would have no finality in the criminal justice system, and finality is important.”
As such, it cannot be over-emphasized that once a person is being accused of a crime, he or she needs to immediately hire the best criminal defense lawyer he or she can possibly afford. The stakes could not be higher.