References to John E. Reid and Associates in Making a Murder Part 2

Written By: Reid
Nov 05, 2018

In the Netflix series, Making a Murder Part 2, the interrogation of Brendan Dassey is discussed by Attorney Steve Drizen and Attorney Lauara Nirider during the first 15 minutes of Episode 2. (Attorneys Drizin and Nirider represent Dassey in his appeals).

The two attorneys are shown on screen giving a presentation to lawyers at Northwestern University Law School, discussing the Brendan Dassey interrogation. During their presentation they reference John E. Reid and Associates as the benchmark for proper interrogation practices and procedures. Specifically, they state that Reid and Associates teaches that using deception or false evidence �should be avoided when interrogating a youthful suspect with low social maturity or a suspect with diminished mental capacity.�

They then again refer to Reid and Associates as teaching that investigators should not reveal all of the case information to the subject during the interrogation so that the investigator can use the disclosure of that information by the subject as an indication of the authenticity of his confession.

A third reference to Reid occurs when attorney Nirider says that, according to Reid and Associations, �slumping in the chair, putting your hand over your mouth, saying I don�t know, and not looking a person in the eye� � all behaviors that Brendan Dassey displayed during his interrogation - are behaviors indicative of a deceptive person. Attorney Nirider states that these behaviors are part of Brendan Dassey�s disability and not indications of deceptive behavior, and that the investigators misclassified his status as a deceptive subject.

The problem with this discussion by Attorney Nirider is that she completely ignores the fact that all of these behaviors must be viewed in context, and she ignores the rules that we teach that the investigator must follow in the evaluation of a subject�s behavior, as well as the factors (such as culture) that must be considered in the evaluation of a subject�s behavior. In a letter that we wrote to Attorneys Drizin and Nirider over a year ago on March 31, 2017, we pointed these issues out to her.

Here are excerpts from that letter:

"Laura referenced some of these behaviors as though they were literal indications of truth or deception; for example, if a person says, �I don�t know� in response to an investigator�s question, he is lying; if a person has his palms up, he is telling the truth; etc. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

To illustrate, if you ask a person what they did 4 weeks ago on Thursday night between 6pm and midnight, it would be perfectly reasonable for the person to say, �I don�t know.� However, if you ask a subject if they had anything to do with causing the death of their neighbor last night, and they responded, �I don�t know� it would certainly raise several questions. In other words, all behavior has to be viewed in context and in accordance with the principles, factors and rules that serve as the foundation for a behavioral assessment.

In all of our training programs we teach that there is no behavior unique to lying. (From Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 5th ed)

There are no unique behaviors associated with truthfulness or deception. The behavioral observations an investigator makes of a suspect do not specifically correlate to truth or deception. Rather, they reflect the subject�s internal emotional state, cognitive processes, and internal physiological arousal experienced during a response�.

We also teach that the investigator must understand all of the factors that can influence a subject�s behavior, as well as the rules that we need to follow in the evaluation of a subject�s behavior � in particular, establishing the subject�s baseline or normal behavior�..

Establish the subject�s normal behavioral patterns. Certainly there are non-deceptive reasons for a suspect to exhibit poor eye contact, respond to questions quickly or slowly, to scratch themselves, yawn, clear their throat, change their posture, etc. Before any of these behaviors can be considered a criteria of deception, the investigator must first establish what the subject�s normal behavioral patterns are. Consequently, at the outset of each interview the investigator should spend several minutes discussing nonthreatening information (perhaps casual conversation or collecting biographical information) so as to establish a behavioral baseline for the particular subject. Then, as the interview progresses and the subject exhibits behavioral changes when the issue under investigation is discussed, these changes may take on added significance.

In summary, although the verbal and nonverbal behavior displayed by a subject during an interview may provide valuable and accurate indications of possible innocence or guilt, the investigator should evaluate the behavior according to the guidelines states in Chapter 9 [in Criminal Interrogation and Confessions]. Furthermore, the following factors, which may affect the validity of behavior symptoms, should be considered: the perceived seriousness of the offense, the mental and physical condition of the subject, any underlying psychiatric or personality disorders; level of intelligence; degree of maturity; and the extent or absence of social responsibilities.