Court rejects the testimony of Professor Alan Hirsch - no evidence the Reid Technique produces false confessions

Written By: Reid
May 31, 2011
In the case of US v. Jacques, May 2011, the US District Court of Massachusetts rejected the proffered testimony of defense expert Professor Alan Hirsch on the issue of false confessions, stating, in part, that:

"This court excluded Professor Hirsch's testimony on two principal grounds: (1) he lacked specialized knowledge that would assist the jury in understanding or weighing the evidence; and (2) his testimony was not based on sufficient facts or data and did not involve the application of reliable principles or methods to the facts of this case."

In his testimony Professor Hirsch indicated that the Reid Technique generated false confessions, but could provide no evidence to support this position as the court pointed out:

"Professor Hirsch's criticism of the Reid technique appeared, at one point in his testimony, to be that it increased the overall number of confessions, both true and false. (Dkt. No. 262, Tr. 2/3/11, at 35 ("I want to be very clear that, number one, the Reid Technique is too effective. The problem is not that it's ineffective. It breaks down guilty suspects. The problem is that it also breaks down innocent suspects.").) Again, he failed to point to any data supporting even this position, which does not address the central issue here: the relative frequency of false confessions and the factors contributing to it.

In sum, the proffered expert testimony to the effect that the Reid technique enhanced the risk of an unreliable confession lacked any objective basis for support whatever. Although Professor Hirsch insisted that "there is a wealth of information about the risks of the Reid technique," he could point to none. (Dkt. No. 262, Tr. 2/3/11, at 132.) It is true, as able defense counsel pointed out, that all science is not the same, and in the area of false confessions the kind of strictly mathematical support available in other areas may be lacking. But some objective basis other than say-so must be offered, and none was."
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