CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gohara on Deceptive Interrogation Techniques

Miriam Gohara (NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund) has posted A Lie for a Lie: False Confessions and the Case for Reconsidering the Legality of Deceptive Interrogation Techniques (33 Fordham Urb. L.J. 791) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Exoneration cases and psychological studies have shown that deceptive interrogation tactics strongly encourage innocent people to confess to crimes they did not commit. Studies have shown that lying to suspects about the presence of objective incriminating evidence, such as eyewitness accounts, fingerprints, or other forensic evidence, dramatically changes the cost-benefit analysis even an innocent suspect will undertake before making an incriminating statement. It makes the cost seem much less severe and the benefit (leniency, being released from interrogation) seem much more attractive. What it does not do is enhance the reliability of confessions. Defense lawyers should challenge confessions obtained using deceptive interrogation tactics where no other objective evidence incriminates their clients. Courts and legislators should adopt rules curbing the use of deceptive interrogation tactics. In a criminal justice system whose goal is divining the truth, not conviction at all costs, it is bad public policy to allow law enforcement officers to lie to suspects during interrogations. In light of empirical data demonstrating that deceptive interrogation tactics are a major contributing factor to false confessions, it is time to reconsider their legality and bring police practices in line with the rest of the justice system’s principled reliance on truth.

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