Thursday, August 7, 2008

Except For My Confession . . . I Have Nothing To Say

I've lost count of the cases that would go much smoother for clients had they not confessed to the police.  I've lost count of the cases in which the police had no case at all . . . but for my client's confession.  DWIs, burglaries, sexual assaults, drug cases. It doesn't matter.  A confession kills the case.  And like the title says, if not for a confession, many people accused of crime would have nothing to say at all.  With so many cases going south because of confessions, it's a wonder why people talk to the police at all. 

I've been reading an excellent paper on police interrogation tactics to help shed light on the confession.    Mourning Miranda by Charles Weisselberg.   Others have commented on this writing here and here.   My hope is to educate potential clients about police tactics and the psychology of the confession.  This knowledge might help them say NO when the police ask whether they want to "waive their right to remain silent."   We'll start with this introductory post to kick-off  a short series on police interrogation and tactics.

Weisselberg started by distinguishing between an “interview” and an “interrogation.” An interview is non-accusatory. It's “free-flowing and relatively unstructured.”  Its purpose is to gather information.  An interrogation, on the other hand, is “accusatory,” conducted “in a controlled environment,” and involves “active persuasion.”  Officers are trained and understand the difference between an interview and an interrogation.  During an interview police establish rapport with a suspect and use verbal and non-verbal information to decide whether, in their view, a suspect is telling the truth.  If officers become “reasonably certain of the suspect’s guilt,” they may initiate an interrogation.  Consequently, an officer’s initial judgments about truth, guilt, and culpability determines whether the suspect will be interrogated.  In contrast to interviewing, interrogation is a “guilt-presumptive" process.

Next consider the nine potential components, or steps, used in many police interrogations.  First is the confrontation statement by the interrogator. Then the interrogator interjects a reason for the commission of the crime, usually a morally acceptable one.  Then the interrogator prepares to overcome the suspect's denials. Steps four through six guide the investigator in overcoming the suspect's reasons why he would not, or could not, have committed the crime.  In step seven the police offer a statement supporting the suspect's morally acceptable reason for committing the crime.  And the final steps are take the oral statement and convert it into a written confession. 

Next time we'll look at these components in more detail.  In the meantime, check out this Brazos County criminal defense article on how to handle encounters with the police.


rychefan84 said...

I stumbled upon this blog by accident and it works perfectly in regards to a presentation for my college interviewing class on the difference between a police interview and an interrogation

Thanks for posting this and hope you don't mind me using this as long as of course I cite you as a resource.

Interesting stuff just got done reading through several blogs and subscribed to this one

Stephen Gustitis said...

Glad you enjoyed the post and find the material helpful. I always appreciate a kind word for my work. Thanks.