other criticism is their of the Reid method in the scientific community?
A: It has to do with the fact that Reid teaches or tries to teach
interrogators that they can read the demeanor of suspects and make
reliable inferences from demeanor as to guilt or innocence. No one
has come up with a way of reliably inferring whether someone is
lying or telling the truth from a real time look at their demeanor.
It is just fanciful."
Response: There have been a number of studies that demonstrate high
accuracies in identifying truth or deception based on evaluation
of verbal and nonverbal behavior. Some of these studies include,
Horvath, F. (1973) "Verbal and nonverbal clues to truthfulness
and deception during polygraph examinations" Journal of Police
Science and Administration, 1, 138-152; Horvath, F. & Jayne,
B. (1990) A pilot study of the verbal and nonverbal behaviors of
criminal suspects during structured interviews" Dept. of Defense
Grant # 89-R-2323.; Horvath, F., Jayne, B. & Buckley, J. (1994)
"Differentiation of truthful and deceptive criminal suspects
in behavior analysis interviews" Forensic Journal of Science
Vol.39 No.3 May 793-806. Eckman, P. (1999) "A Few can Catch
a Liar" J. of Psychological Sciences, May 1999.
Q: Is the fact that Reid teaches police interrogators that they
can read demeanor, is that your greatest criticism?
A: The major criticism of the Reid method is the accident scenario
technique. It is called the accident scenario maximization minimization
and this is a technique that Reid teaches and deliberately misleads
police officers as to the acceptability of this technique.
Ofshe then goes on to quote extensively from our book Criminal Interrogation
and Confessions on page 103, referring to a robbery-homicide case.
In essence, Ofshe testifies that:
"Reid suggests that the investigator develop the theme that
the suspect's primary goal was to get some money and that the shooting
was the result of his belief that the victim was drawing a gun and
that he acted in self-defense. Now they (Reid) describes this as
formatting a less heinous, less morally unacceptable version of
the crime. What they, in fact, are doing is changing the description
of the crime facts that would lead to the crime being classified
not as a premeditated murder, but in this case, as an act of self-defense.
They are communicating that while this looks like a premeditated
murder, they are willing to believe, to accept a version that makes
the crime less serious, and therefore, charge less, so its an offer
of leniency. Now this is a point that has been noticed by many people
in the research community, and, in fact, has been the subject of
particular research that demonstrates that a normal individual confronted
with these sorts of alternatives will correctly understand that
what they're being offered is a more or less serious charge, and
the mechanism for communicating that is called pragmatic implication.
So this is the central problem with the Reid method in that what
makes it effective is that it offers harsh punishment for silence
and a benefit for confessing."
RESPONSE: The research Ofshe refers to is a single laboratory study
where college students were asked to read various interrogation
scenarios and speculate as to how long the defendant would be sentenced.
This research did not, in any way, address whether or not implied
promises of leniency may result in a false confession. The author
himself cautioned about generalizing these findings to field situations,
stating that the college student's perceptions may not be the same
as that of other individuals. It is our position, and has been our
experience, that a person innocent of killing another is not led
to offer a false confession as a result of the interrogator simply
suggesting the possibility that the killing occurred accidentally.
One issue that must be kept in mind is that guilty suspects, because
they are guilty and face possible serious consequences, want strongly
to believe that they deserve some special consideration for their
crime. The suggestion that a mentally healthy innocent suspect would
accept responsibility for a crime he did not commit assuming, of
course, that no illegal tactics have been utilized by the interrogator,
is simply not logical.
Q: In the psychological appendix of the Reid textbook, do they draw
a distinction in that area about a real promise versus giving them
a false promise?
A: Yes. The psychological appendix to the book which is an attempt
on their part to explain the social psychology of why their methods
work, they use the concept of belief. They say, "The concept
of belief is the vehicle of persuasion. Beliefs are not fact and,
therefore, are subject to interpretation and exterior influences.
The catalyst of belief is important in another way, too. During
a legal interrogation reality cannot be changed. A confession would
be inadmissible as evidence if the interrogator takes away the consequences
to the confession, (promises) or physically adds anxiety (threats
abuse) during the interrogation. However the interrogator can legally
change the suspect's perception of the consequences of confessing
or the suspect's perception of the anxiety associated with deception
through influencing the suspect's beliefs."
What they are saying is, it's okay to make somebody believe you're
offering a deal, as long as you're not intending to go ahead with
the deal. Somehow they draw this very bizarre distinction since
all that is of any concern in explaining the decision-making of
an individual, is what that individual either perceives or is led
to perceive about the choices before them, so there is a deliberate
attempt here to leave them to perceive a way out that has little
or no punishment by complying, and then turn around and attack them
for having agreed to what the interrogator has suggested.
Q: Why do you disagree with that?
A: Because fundamentally it is motivating the initial decision to
make the admission through threat and promise, threat and promise.
Response: Ofshe's analysis of this paragraph represents a gross
mischaracterization of the technique when he states that it is designed
to motivate the initial decision to make the admission through threats
and promises. If he were asked to read the last full paragraph on
the previous page (p.332) the court would learn that, "References
to influencing anxiety during an interrogation do not mean, or imply,
the use of any threats, coercion, or abuse to the suspect. Anxiety,
as used in this discussion, refers only to the suspect's internal
feelings of uneasiness as a result of his own cognitive dissonance.
Similarly, in reference to decreasing the suspect's perception of
the consequences, no promises should be made of leniency."
Model of Interrogation (Direct Testimony of Richard Ofshe)
People v. Sanchez, April 19, 1999
During direct examination, Richard Ofshe presents his own
model of interrogation. He uses a graph where the vertical axis
represents the suspect's confidence in being able to "survive
the interrogation without being arrested". The horizontal axis
represents time, or the duration of the interrogation. Ofshe describes,
as the goal of the interrogation, to decrease the suspect's confidence
to survive the interrogation. At some point, he argues, the suspect's
confidence drops to a level where he makes the first admission of
guilt, e.g., "I did it." This period of time he refers
to as the pre-admission phase. The post-admission phase, on the
other hand, involves developing the details of the confession.
During the pre-admission phase Ofshe states that the interrogator
uses a number of "evidence ploys" to convince the suspect
that he committed the crime. Ofshe's examples all include reference
to fictitious evidence. The purpose in presenting such evidence,
Ofshe argues, is to make the suspect feel "hopeless."
He testifies that both the guilty and innocent suspect will feel
hopeless once the interrogator brings up evidence linking them to
The next strategy employed during the pre-admission phase, according
to Ofshe's model, is to motivate the suspect to make the first admission
of guilt. Ofshe testifies that there are different levels of motivation.
The first is called a low-end motivator and consists of such statements
as, "You'll feel better if you just admit you did it"
or, "You're not a bad person; you've got to admit you did it
and take your punishment." Ofshe testifies that such statements
appealing to the suspect's concept of right and wrong would be highly
unlikely to get any person, guilty or innocent, to confess. Therefore,
an interrogator uses "systematic appeals" designed to
get the suspect to believe that he will be better off if he confesses.
Ofshe testifies that as long as the interrogator does not specifically
promise the suspect leniency, that these systematic appeals are
unlikely to cause a false confession. However, if these statements
do not produce a confession, Ofshe states that the interrogator
then uses high-end coercive motivators where the suspect is specifically
threatened with either a sever punishment or a promised leniency.
It is under this circumstance, he argues, that an innocent person
may make a false admission of guilt.
Response: We agree that an interrogation represents a pre-admission
and post-admission phase. However, the concept that the interrogator's
goal is to decrease a suspect's confidence in avoiding an arrest
by interrogating the suspect over an extended period of time is
simply wrong. While it is true that some interrogations do last
several hours, the Reid Technique does not advocate prolonging an
interrogation for the sole purpose of wearing down a suspect's resistance
to confess. In this regard, we find it very misleading to use time
as one of the axis within the interrogation formula.
Ofshe's model clearly implies that all suspects decide to confess
as a means to avoid tangible consequences such as being arrested,
or suffering a long prison sentence. The high-end motivators Ofshe
describes are techniques clearly denounced by the Reid Technique
and the courts.(1) However, Ofshe himself
testified that if high-end coercive motivators are not used that
it is unlikely that an innocent person would make an admission of
guilt, not to mention the much more specific information required
to constitute a full confession. Based on our experiences and post-confession
interviews with suspects, we have found that there can be several
motivations for a guilty suspect to confess. Examples include the
suspect feeling better about himself (relieving internal anxiety)
the suspect saving face with loved ones and, certainly in some instances,
the suspect believing that he deserves special consideration because
of extraneous circumstances surrounding his crime.
Analysis of the "Post-narrative Statement" Direct
Testimony of Richard Ofshe
People v. Sanchez, April 19, 1999
Ofshe relies extensively on the defendant's narrative confession
when testifying that it is false. He makes a distinction between
objective facts (factual information derived from the crime scene)
and subjective statements the suspect offers that can never be verified
(how he felt about committing the crime). Ofshe testifies, "We
have to distinguish between things that can be evaluated by comparing
them to the objective facts of the crime and things that just can
never be evaluated and, therefore, don't help us in figuring out
whether this is a true or false statement, and that's the fit between
the post-admission narrative and the objective facts of the crime."
In the present case, while physical evidence implicated the defendant,
the crime scene also had a bloody footprint that did not match the
defendant's as well as unidentified fingerprints. This suggested
to Ofshe that two people committed the crime yet the defendant confessed
that he alone committed it. The testimony continues:
Q: Well, if you knew that there's possible evidence in this case
that's been presented to the jury that included an unknown shoe
print leading from the master bedroom out through the front door
that didn't belong to the defendant, and he had no knowledge of
how that shoe print got there, how would that fit into your model?
A: Well, that would be physical evidence failing to link him to
the crime and suggesting that perhaps someone else is the perpetrator.
Q: Well, if he (the defendant) told an officer that he was alone
and the evidence suggested that there was more than one person there,
how would that fit into your model?
A: That would be a bad fit with the physical evidence. That would
indicate that there's some part of his statement that doesn't comport
with the physical evidence.
Q: So it wouldn't corroborate an, "I did it," would it?
A: No. That would be consistent with a lack of knowledge because
there's physical evidence that suggests the opposite of what's said.
Q: When you reviewed the tape did you see instances where the defendant
asked the police officer if he was going to continue to investigate?
Q: How does that fit into your model, if at all?
A: It would be consistent with someone giving a false confession
who is hoping that subsequent investigation will prove their innocence.
Response: It is a common misconception that when a suspect "breaks
down and confesses" that he tells the complete and whole truth
about his crime. This, in fact, is the exception rather than the
rule. Most guilty suspects will withhold information about their
crime or lie about peripheral issues relating to it. The motive
for some of these distortions may be quite apparent such as protecting
an accomplice or describing the crime in a more favorable light
by lying about some behaviors. "It is a fact that most confessors
to crimes of a serious nature will lie about some aspect of the
occurrence, even though they may have disclosed the full truth regarding
the main event. They will lie about some detail of the crime for
which they have a greater feeling of shame than that which they
experience with respect to the main event. For instance, a sex-motivated
murderer may make a complete and truthful disclosure of the killing,
but at the same time, he may lie about the nature of his actual
sexual act. A burglar-murderer may freely reveal all the details
of killing but, as earlier illustrated, may lie about taking a gold
crucifix from the victim's home." Criminal Interrogation and
Confessions, 3rd ed. P. 106.
It is interesting to note that early in his testimony Ofshe indicated
the importance of using only objective facts as the criteria to
determine whether a confession is false. However, when later asked
to speculate on the significance of the suspect asking if the investigation
would continue, Ofshe concluded that the statement would be consistent
with someone giving a false confession.
For legal prohibitions against the use of threats
and promises during an interrogation, see Inbau, Reid & Buckley
Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 3rd ed pp. 308-317.
In addition, the following specific statements are made in that
text: "During the presentation of any theme based upon the
morality factor, caution must be taken to avoid any indication that
the minimization of moral blame will relieve the suspect of criminal
responsibility p. 93; "Interrogators should not make a promise
of immunity from prosecution or a diminution of punishment as an
inducement for a confession." p. 99; "Any behavior or
statement that threatens the suspect's well-being or his perception
of it is not advocated legally or psychologically for interrogation
purposes" p. 345. From Jayne & Buckley The Investigator
Anthology, "During theme development, caution must be exercised,
however, not to tell the suspect that if the crime was committed
for a morally acceptable reason that the suspect will be accorded
leniency." p. 414' "In presenting and contrasting the
alternative question, the investigator must not offer threats or
promises." p. 463.