You Would Think Legal Researchers Would Be Better

Written By: Joseph P. Buckley
Oct 20, 2023

You Would Think Legal Researchers Would Be Better

In the online publication, Legal Reader, published on October 18, 2023, the “staff” wrote an article entitled “The Psychology of Criminal Confessions: Understanding False Confessions and Interrogation Techniques.

In the article, the authors describe the Reid Technique as follows:

The Reid Technique is a widely used law enforcement approach for interrogations. It utilizes a series of psychological strategies designed to get confessions from suspects. Here is a summary of the key elements of the Reid Technique:

  • Accusatory Stance: The interrogator presents evidence and makes the suspect believe they’ve been caught in a lie.
  • Minimization: The interrogator lessens the severity of the crime or offers excuses to reduce the suspect’s guilt.
  • Maximization: On the contrary, the interrogator may overstate the possible consequences of not confessing, such as implying severe punishments or longer sentences.
  • False Evidence: Interrogators may present false evidence or lie about having incriminating information against the suspect to heighten their anxiety.
  • Alternatives: The interrogator may offer alternatives as a way out for the suspect, subtly pushing them to admit guilt.
  • Moral Justification: By appealing to moral values, the interrogator may try to convince the suspect that confessing is the right thing to do.

These techniques look to create a stressful atmosphere where the suspect feels forced to surrender information. Critics, however, argue that these techniques can lead to false confessions and wrongful convictions. To guarantee justice, it is essential for law enforcement agencies and investigators to merge effective interrogation tactics with respect for ethical standards and civil liberties.

Unfortunately, the authors demonstrate a remarkable lack of understanding of the Reid Technique process. It appears these days that authors “google” a topic and then simply regurgitate some of the selected items without doing any research of their own.

At the conclusion of this brief response, we will provide a number of links to detailed information about the Reid Technique, but here is a brief summary.

The Reid Technique always begins with a non-accusatory, non-confrontational interview in which the investigator is a neutral, objective, non-judgmental fact finder. The interview consists of investigative questions that deal with the issue that is under investigation. One of the first things the investigator should do is ask the subject an open-ended question that invites the subject to tell their story. If it is a victim, what happened? If it is a witness, what did they see or hear? If it is a suspect, what were their activities on the day in question? After the subject relates their initial story or version of events the investigator will then ask a series of questions to develop additional details and to clarify the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the incident under investigation.

Interrogation only takes place when the information developed during the interview and the investigation indicates the subject’s probable involvement in the commission of the crime.

The Core Principles of the Reid Technique are:

  • 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

These core principles are the exact opposite of what the Staff writers for the Legal Reader describe in their article…. “The interrogator lessens the severity of the crime or offers excuses to reduce the suspect’s guilt and overstates the possible consequences of not confessing, such as implying severe punishments or longer sentences.”

For seven decades we have taught investigators not to make any promises of leniency or to threaten a more severe consequence if the subject does not confess.

As one Federal Court stated, “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.”

Here are several links to articles on our website that detail the Reid Technique process and false confession issues:

A Description of the Reid Technique

Principles of Practice:How to Conduct Proper Investigative Interviews and Interrogations

False Confessions: The Issues to be Considered

What Questions Should be Asked to Determine the Voluntariness of s Subject's Confession?

Clarifying Misrepresentations About interrogation Techniques