The Disingenuous Testimony from Social Psychologists About the Reid Technique

Written By: Joseph P. Buckley
Jul 11, 2023

Richard Leo, and other false confession experts (oftentimes social psychologists), have testified that “there is a consensus in the scientific community that the techniques taught by the Reid method sometimes lead to or are involved in false confession cases.” And that “some of those techniques are risk factors for a false confession.” Leo has further testified that “it's part of the generally accepted knowledge that the Reid method trains police in techniques that are associated with and believed to sometimes cause false confessions.” And that there is “substantial empirical research that the Reid method can become psychologically coercive.”

And that “the Reid Behavioral Interview method has been discredited.”

Leo describes the Reid Behavior Analysis Interview as ‘the investigator asks 15 or 20 hypothetical questions and evaluates whether the subject is telling the truth or lying based on their answers and body language, and that can become the basis for interrogating somebody…. and that has been discredited.”

Let’s take a look at the veracity of these statements.

It has been well documented by numerous court decisions that false confessions are not caused by the application of the Reid Technique, but are usually caused by interrogators engaging in coercive behaviors that the courts have ruled to be objectionable, such as

  • threatening inevitable consequences
  • making a promise of leniency in return for the confession
  • denying a subject their rights
  • conducting an interrogation for an excessively long period of time
  • denying the suspect an opportunity to satisfy their physical needs
  • threatening the subject with a more severe punishment if they do not confess
  • physically harming the suspect or threatening to do so, etc.

In one research effort, the author studied the first 110 DNA exoneration cases reported by the Innocence Project. The author reported that “This study failed to find a single false confession of a cognitively normal individual that did not include the use of coercive tactics by the interrogator, such as…the use of physical force; denial of food, sleep or bathroom; explicit threats of punishment; explicit promises of leniency; and extremely lengthy interrogations.”

J. Pete Blair, “A Test of the Unusual False Confessions Perspective: Using Cases of Proven False Confessions” Criminal Law Bulletin (Vol 41, Number 2)

In fact, Leo has testified on numerous occasions that “when innocent people falsely confess, there's almost always some threat and/or some promise….. So threats and promises typically go together, and in the proven false confession cases, they are in a very high percentage of those cases.”

Leo and all false confession experts know that for decades (as we will see later in this text) Reid has practiced, published, and taught that all investigators should adhere to the following principles of practice:

* Always treat the subject with dignity and respect

* Always conduct interviews and interrogations in accordance with the guidelines established by the courts

* Do not make any promises of leniency or threats of harm or inevitable consequences

* Do not conduct interrogations for an excessively lengthy period of time

* Do not deny the subject any of their rights

* Do not deny the subject the opportunity to satisfy their physical needs

* Exercise special cautions when questioning juveniles or individuals with mental or psychological impairments

* Do not physically abuse the subject or threaten to do so

So what is Leo talking about when he says that there is “Substantial empirical research that the Reid method can become psychologically coercive,” and that “the Reid Behavioral Interview method has been discredited?”

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