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Author Topic: allowable deception to obtain confessions?
LetterRip
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How far should police be allowed to deceive suspects in order to obtain a confession?

Verbal lies about evidence?
False witness statements?
Falsified evidence reports (Here is a DNA report that conclusively proves you were at the scene of the crime; we found your finger prints on the murder weapon)?
Lying about polygraph results?
Faking of gun powder residue on the suspects hands?

How 'certain' should they have to be?

Do you think that having it legally/morally acceptable of fabrication of statements and evidence to get a confession might have a moral risk of increasing the odds of law enforcement fabricating statements and evidence to get a conviction?

[ September 07, 2010, 01:04 AM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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Grant
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My knee jerk reaction is that they still maintain the right to remain silent, and a right to an attorney.

I certainly don't condone the fabrication of statements and evidence to get a conviction. For some reason I don't see a bluff in that light.

I can't see a problem if the D.A. walks into the room and tells me that they have me on tape raping a member of the university vollyball team. If I didn't rape the woman, then I know the D.A. is full of it, if I did rape her, then I still have the right to remain silent and wait for my lawyer.

I think the above scenario is a far cry from actually faking a tape of me raping a woman. I know I sometimes express my concerns over the law enforcement community, but I understand the job they do is necessary and very important. I would like to give them some tools in order to do that job. Trying to trick morons with bluffs doesn't seem to be cheating as long as the suspects were read their rights.

In that light I have no problem with verbal lies about evidence. Actual false written statements or reports seems dubious to me, obviously they cannot be presented in court, and I think it would be wrong to present it to the suspect's lawyer.

You can either trust your law enforcement community, or you can't. If you don't trust them, then you can try to place restrictions on them all you like, but it will only make them ineffective not only at being corrupt, but at protecting the citizens as well. It would be like not handing out weapons to your army, because you are afraid the senior officers will overthrow the government or handle them ineffectively.

It seems to me to be one of those cases where skepticism may help keep you safe, but it needs to be balanced with some faith and trust as well. You can't keep a society together without some form of trust between people.

[ September 07, 2010, 02:02 AM: Message edited by: Grant ]

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LetterRip
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Here is the article that prompted this,

http://www.valvanbrocklin.com/Truth%20or%20Consequences%20Article.htm

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
"If I didn't rape the woman, then I know the D.A. is full of it, if I did rape her, then I still have the right to remain silent and wait for my lawyer."
If they tell you they have your fingerprints and DNA on the scene, you may just as well assume that they planted this evidence and that they will frame you for something even worse if you don't confess. Very soon they'll be putting your fingerprints on double homicide scenes. So falsely confess the rape, to avoid the murder charge.

So here's my own knee jerk reaction: That no lies should be permissible at all. Most lies that can deceive the guilty can likewise deceive the innocent and thus cause false confessions.

The investigators should speak the truth always, so that the innocent will never have to worry about being framed.

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Gaoics79
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I agree with Grant and with the courts in several of the rulings cited in that link. Unless there is reason to believe that the lie would induce an innocent man to give a false confession, it should not be prohibited.

Aris's scenario doesn't seem particularly plausible to me. I doubt too many people would confess to a rape they didn't commit following that tortured logic. But every case is different. If the circumstances warrant it, then let the accused make that argument.

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Viking_Longship
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quote:
Originally posted by LetterRip:
How far should police be allowed to deceive suspects in order to obtain a confession?

Verbal lies about evidence?
False witness statements?
Falsified evidence reports (Here is a DNA report that conclusively proves you were at the scene of the crime; we found your finger prints on the murder weapon)?
Lying about polygraph results?
Faking of gun powder residue on the suspects hands?

How 'certain' should they have to be?

Do you think that having it legally/morally acceptable of fabrication of statements and evidence to get a confession might have a moral risk of increasing the odds of law enforcement fabricating statements and evidence to get a conviction?

The police shouldn't be allowed to lie to obtain confessions. They don't need a confession for the prosecutor to do their job and if someone admits to something they didn't do that means the real perpatrator is still out there.
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I doubt too many people would confess to a rape they didn't commit following that tortured logic. But every case is different. If the circumstances warrant it, then let the accused make that argument.
It's a good thing that only perfectly calm, mature and rational logicians are ever the prime suspects.

And not say e.g. undereducated semiliterate drunkard/junkie kids, confused and frightened out of their minds after marathon interrogations during which they're told that they'll be raped to death by the other inmates if they don't cooperate to so ensure a lighter sentence.

quote:
"I doubt too many people would confess to a rape they didn't commit following that tortured logic."
Okay, can you believe anyone would ever make a false confession about any crime under any circumstances that don't include physical torture?

[ September 07, 2010, 08:06 AM: Message edited by: Aris Katsaris ]

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Aris Katsaris
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I'm saying that even a police unwilling to frame a person by planting evidence, is perfectly capable of unwittingly framing a person by causing a false confession.

I think that all interrogations must be videotaped -- indeed all interactions between government and private citizens ought be videotaped.

The innocent guy being told of the false evidence doesn't have any way of distinguishing between "Police that lies to me" and "Police that will lie to the court". And if he even THINKS that it's the latter case, then he's intimidated to cooperated, even via false confessions.

(EDITED to remove the quotation of a deleted post)

[ September 07, 2010, 08:56 AM: Message edited by: Aris Katsaris ]

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Gaoics79
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quote:
Okay, can you believe anyone would ever make a false confession about any crime under any circumstances that don't include physical torture?
Yeeeesss... which is why I also said:

quote:
But every case is different. If the circumstances warrant it, then let the accused make that argument.
If there is good reason to believe that an accused person could have been coerced into a false confession, then let the court consider that evidence and deal with it accordingly.

My only point was that it would be rare indeed for a person, even a very gullible / nervous / stupid person, to knowingly confess to a serious crime he did not commit, no matter what the police told him.

I think it's reasonable to allow the police some latitude in interrogating suspects, up to and including lying. A court can consider later on if a lie would have been likely to elicit a false confession. If not, why throw out the confession?

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Gaoics79
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Aris, your 8:46 post cites a post I deleted. I deleted it because it was based on a misunderstanding on my part of your original post. I don't think anything I said in that post assists this dicussion, which is why I deleted it.
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
A court can consider later on if a lie would have been likely to elicit a false confession. If not, why throw out the confession?
Okay, I can agree with this: If the full interrogation is videotaped so that all lies and truths are recorded precisely as stated, then there's no need to throw out anything.

I would still believe the police would be committing a wrong tactic: that telling lies would undermine their efficiency in the long run, partly because they'd be focusing on extracting a confession instead of actually finding the actual evidence. But it would no longer be as morally horrid.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
Aris, your 8:46 post cites a post I deleted.
In return I modified my post to include only my further points, without quotation and without unnecessary intensity.
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Pyrtolin
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Simple rule- don't talk to the police, only a lawyer. You can't say anything to the police that will help you- per implicit statement in the Miranda rights, they are obligated to find a way to use anything you say as evidence against you, so matter how innocuous or even beneficial you think it is, and they're not allowed to use anything you say to help you.

This is a very good dig into the overall issues and tactics used to get people to incriminate themselves, rightly or wrongly.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8z7NC5sgik

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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
I agree with Grant and with the courts in several of the rulings cited in that link. Unless there is reason to believe that the lie would induce an innocent man to give a false confession, it should not be prohibited.

In general terms there probably is reason to believe that the lie would induce a false confession. If an innocent suspect believes that the police are going to nail him regardless of his innocence, he may well be tempted to cooperate with the police or make a plea bargain with the prosecutors in the hopes that it'll shave a few years off a sentence that he sees as unjust but inevitable.
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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by Aris Katsaris:
quote:
A court can consider later on if a lie would have been likely to elicit a false confession. If not, why throw out the confession?
Okay, I can agree with this: If the full interrogation is videotaped so that all lies and truths are recorded precisely as stated, then there's no need to throw out anything.

I would still believe the police would be committing a wrong tactic: that telling lies would undermine their efficiency in the long run, partly because they'd be focusing on extracting a confession instead of actually finding the actual evidence. But it would no longer be as morally horrid.

You'd need to go a bit further and have the police record and declare in a seperate statement which statements from the interview they know to be true (and ideally, which ones they know to be fabrications). If officers are willing to fabricate evidence to acquire a confession, then they should be willing to let juries know what evidence was fabricated.
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Clark
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How do people feel about deception that doesn't involve fabrication of evidence (verbal or physical)?

An example of this might be "we found DNA at the scene and are running it right now. You'd better confess and take a plea before we have the proof to nail you." If they didn't find any DNA, the statement is a lie, but it is presented in a way that might get a guilty person to confess, while being much less likely to induce an innocent person to confess. (Innocent people should be thinking "well, whoever left the DNA sure wasn't me.)

Similarly police could lie about an impending lineup when they do not, in fact, have an eye witness.

Where is the line between good police work and bad?

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kmbboots
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Innocent people who can't post bail could also agree to a plea that would end up being less time than they would spend in jail waiting for a trial.
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Gaoics79
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quote:
You'd need to go a bit further and have the police record and declare in a seperate statement which statements from the interview they know to be true (and ideally, which ones they know to be fabrications). If officers are willing to fabricate evidence to acquire a confession, then they should be willing to let juries know what evidence was fabricated.
A criminal lawyer can correct me if I'm wrong, but I strongly suspect that any deception would already come out on cross-examination of the police officer that conducted the interrogation.

Basically, the safeguard you mention is already built into the system.

Frankly, from what little I know about how the system works, I'd say everything is fine as it is.

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RickyB
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There is no doubt that people, even people who are not generally considered stupid, confess to crimes they did not commit all the time. This is exhaustively documented fact.

That being said, trickery is an inseparable part of police work vis-a-vis suspects.

The really important thing is that confessions alone shouldn't be considered sufficient proof. If someone confesses and can't get ALL the details of the crime plus some that were never published, the confession should be considered seriously flawed even as supporting evidence.

As far as your list - I'm reasonably comfortable with #1. All the others are problematic as they raise the self-pressuring fear of a framejob or foregone conclusion (since DNA doesn't lie as everyone knows). When you have two suspected accomplices I have little problem with "Your boy joey is selling you out. He told us just how you did it." - just, again, if the details of the confession don't add evidence that this really is the guy, it alone can't convict.

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PSRT
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quote:
I doubt too many people would confess to a rape they didn't commit following that tortured logic.
Its really easy to trick a person into thinking they did something they didn't do. Memory is a very fickle thing, even for the rational and sober.
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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
quote:
I doubt too many people would confess to a rape they didn't commit following that tortured logic.
Its really easy to trick a person into thinking they did something they didn't do. Memory is a very fickle thing, even for the rational and sober.
In a related note:

quote:

Research finds repressed memories don't exist

The idea that traumatised people, especially the victims of child sexual abuse, deliberately repress horrific memories goes all the way back to the 19th century and the theories of Sigmund Freud himself.

But now some experts are saying the evidence points the other way.

Professor Grant Devilly, from Griffith University's Psychological Health research unit, says the memory usually works in the opposite way, with traumatised people reliving experiences they would rather forget.

Link
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PSRT
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I agree that we often relive memories we'd rather forget (I do it frequently). I don't agree that repressed memories simply don't exist, as I've known people who remember traumatic events years after the events happened to them. I think, rather, that repressed memories are less common than some therapists would like to believe.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
quote:
You'd need to go a bit further and have the police record and declare in a seperate statement which statements from the interview they know to be true (and ideally, which ones they know to be fabrications). If officers are willing to fabricate evidence to acquire a confession, then they should be willing to let juries know what evidence was fabricated.
A criminal lawyer can correct me if I'm wrong, but I strongly suspect that any deception would already come out on cross-examination of the police officer that conducted the interrogation.

Basically, the safeguard you mention is already built into the system.

Frankly, from what little I know about how the system works, I'd say everything is fine as it is.

Only when and if the case goes to trial.
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Adam Masterman
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@JWatts

Your link authority may be both right and wrong. Recent research into child sexual abuse is finding that the initial contact is rarely traumatic as it occurs. Usually, its confusing, and often the perceived benefits of special attention from an adult make the child unwittingly allow the abuse. In this scenario, the trauma occurs when the events are seen from an adult vantage point, and the individual is overwhelmed with shame and betrayal. This book makes the case very well, using case studies from numerous abuse victims (the excerpt on Amazon gives a really good picture of the concept and the research.)

If true, this would validate claims of "repressed memories", since the hormonal intensity of trauma does not always accompany sexual abuse in children. Its a confusing but not significant event, understandably forgotten along with much of the minutia of childhood.

Not sure if this was where you or your source was going, but I know a lot of convictions have been sought based on previously repressed memories, and authorities claiming to debunk it risk allowing a lot of sexual predators to escape justice.

Adam

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Gaoics79
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quote:
Its really easy to trick a person into thinking they did something they didn't do. Memory is a very fickle thing, even for the rational and sober.
That's a pretty nebulous statement. Easy to trick them into thinking they did what? Walk out of a store with a candy bar? Sure. Murder someone? Colour me skeptical, at least if we're talking about conventional police tactics used in civilized countries.

Throw torture into the mix and then maybe your premise would be easier to accept. But of course, I don't think American Cops are allowed to waterboard their prisoners.

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