Professor David Wilson Misses the Boat

Written By: Joseph P. Buckley
Jan 24, 2024

In the January 24, 204 issue of, Professor David Wilson is quoted as saying that:

  • 'American detectives are trained in a particular technique called the Reid technique.
  • 'The Reid technique when they're interrogating people is to create a confrontational atmosphere to really focus and make it stressful for the person who's going to be interviewed.
  • 'And here's the crucial thing...... American detectives can lie... they can say "we have your DNA on the murder victim's body. We've got a witness that can place you at the scene of the crime" - none of which has to be true.'

Professor Wilson suggest the lying about evidence is a staple of the Reid Technique.

To clarify the issue.....

In 1969 the United States Supreme Court upheld the use of misrepresenting evidence to the subject. The case was Frazier v. Cupp (394 U.S. 731). In that case, the Supreme Court upheld the admissibility of the defendant’s confession, which, in part, was the result of the police falsely telling the subject that his accomplice had confessed. The Court held that the misrepresentations were relevant, but that they did not make an otherwise voluntary confession inadmissible. In reaching this conclusion, the Court judged the materiality of the misrepresentation by viewing the “the totality of circumstances.”

It is important to highlight the Court’s reference to an “otherwise voluntary confession,” the clear implication being that if the subject’s rights were honored; if there were no threats of harm or inevitable consequences; if there were no promises of leniency; and if the investigator followed the guidelines established by the courts, then misrepresenting evidence, in and of itself, will not jeopardize the admissibility of the confession.

For decades the core principles of the Reid Technique have been as follows:

  • 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 long 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 socially immature juveniles or individuals with mental or psychological impairments

We recently posted an Investigator Tip entitled, Reid Policy on the Use of Deception During Interrogation, in which we state, "Given current judicial and legislative trends regarding the use of deception during an interrogation, investigators should adopt a
general practice of avoiding misrepresentations concerning incontrovertible or dispositive evidence."

As a side note to Professor Wilson's general comments, the Reid Technique always begins with a non-accusatory, non-confrontational interview in which the investigator should be a neutral, objective, non-judgmental fact finder and only when the investigation indicates the subject's probable involvement in the commission of the crime under investigation would an interrogation be appropriate.