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October 4, 2010 12:27 AM   Subscribe

Why do people confess to crimes they don't commit? UVA Law Professor Brandon Garrett has been researching the contamination effect in interrogation. Modern interrogation practices are informed by the (copyrighted) Reid Technique. John R. Reid and Associates, Inc. responds to critics.
posted by availablelight (87 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Confessions are unreliable. I guess it's DNA or it didn't happen.
posted by pracowity at 12:56 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Confessions are unreliable. I guess it's DNA or it didn't happen.
Except DNA doesn't tell you what happened, only that two people were in contact with each other or that someone had been at some location.
posted by delmoi at 12:59 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


The New York Magazine mentions the solution- video recording of every interrogation. Cynically, I believe that the reason the police are against this is because it will lower their conviction rate, as the article pointed out that juries are better about determining if a confession is valid or not after seeing the interrogation.

At times like this, I believe the cops who oppose recording think that it's better that 10 innocent people go to jail than for 1 guilty person to walk free.

The cops who have started recording and actually appreciate it, that was, honestly, surprising and welcome.
posted by Hactar at 1:08 AM on October 4, 2010 [24 favorites]


At times like this, I believe the cops who oppose recording think that it's better that 10 innocent people go to jail than for 1 guilty person to walk free.

I'll see your cynicism and raise you. I believe the cops who oppose recording do so in order to save their on sweet arses.

Regarding the "Reid Technique" link, where they discuss how to resist it; resisting it mainly appears to be all about being a snarky, difficult person who attacks and challanges everything they are asked. I can see why this is so difficult. When you're accused of a crime you didn't commit, you want to show yourself to be the most cooperative, friendly, harmless, innocent person around, not someone who "makes things difficult"...
posted by Jimbob at 1:59 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The New York Magazine mentions the solution- video recording of every interrogation. Cynically, I believe that the reason the police are against this is because it will lower their conviction rate, as the article pointed out that juries are better about determining if a confession is valid or not after seeing the interrogation.

It does seem braindead obvious that if my local carwash takes a video recording of the condition of every car that enters the line (a guy walks around the cars with a video camera) so that disputes can be prevented in the future, the police ought to be recording interrogations in full. The carwash does this when a few thousand dollars are at stake, yet we don't bother recording when life imprisonment or even the death penalty is imposed on the outcome of what happens in that room?
posted by zachlipton at 2:07 AM on October 4, 2010 [22 favorites]


I'm not sure if this is the kind of thing that's done here, but in case it is, trigger warning for violence (description of a body) in the first paragraph.

Fascinating read, though.
posted by NoraReed at 2:23 AM on October 4, 2010


It does seem braindead obvious that if my local carwash takes a video recording of the condition of every car that enters the line (a guy walks around the cars with a video camera) so that disputes can be prevented in the future, the police ought to be recording interrogations in full.

And emphasis on, "in full", apparently. From the New York Magazine link:

Don Thompson has thought a great deal about what would have happened in 1992 if the jury had been able to see the whole Sterling interrogation and not just the final twenty minutes. “You can’t describe to a jury the effects of isolation over a twelve-hour period,” he says. “I’d make them sit through the whole twelve hours. Because at that point, even for the jurors sitting in the jury box, it begins to feel like a hostage crisis.”

posted by availablelight at 2:30 AM on October 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


Vic Mackey made them do it.
posted by bwg at 2:47 AM on October 4, 2010


The New York Magazine mentions the solution- video recording of every interrogation. Cynically, I believe that the reason the police are against this is because it will lower their conviction rate, as the article pointed out that juries are better about determining if a confession is valid or not after seeing the interrogation.

I think it's more about the expense and reliability involved. Police cars are already wired to be recording whenever they make a stop, and it's distressing how frequently the recordings turn out to be unplayable due to recorder malfunction. Happens when suspects have recording setups in their own cars, too - it's just a function of recording technology. You see this almost as frequently as you see reports of police misconduct or brutality.

Maybe they should look into adapting cell phone cameras - those don't seem to have nearly the failure rate.
posted by kafziel at 2:51 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, "recorder malfunction".
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:12 AM on October 4, 2010 [17 favorites]


Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Confessions are unreliable. I guess it's DNA or it didn't happen.

When we can tell you when and how the DNA source got there for anything other than semen on vaginal/cervical swabs, then it's "DNA or it didn't happen". Otherwise delmoi's right, we can link people to people or people to places, but there has to be additional investigative information. Is person X's blood on my clothes because I tried to kill him or because I tried to give CPR? Is my DNA on the ligatures because I tied up the victim or because I found him and tried to untie him? DNA is an awesome source of information and we do the best we can with what we have but it's not, or shouldn't be, the only tool in the investigative box.
posted by Flannery Culp at 3:12 AM on October 4, 2010


olice cars are already wired to be recording whenever they make a stop, and it's distressing how frequently the recordings turn out to be unplayable due to recorder malfunction.... You see this almost as frequently as you see reports of police misconduct or brutality.

Well played, sir. Dare I say, they seem to come in pairs?

Great post, Availablelight.
posted by smoke at 3:20 AM on October 4, 2010


Regarding the "Reid Technique" link, where they discuss how to resist it; resisting it mainly appears to be all about being a snarky, difficult person who attacks and challanges everything they are asked. I can see why this is so difficult.

Wait, what? *reads link* That's absolutely terrible, horrible advice. Resisting the Reid technique is dead simple: ask for a lawyer and then shut the hell up. Under no circumstances should you say anything else, ever. No snarking, no challenging the facts. Where people go wrong is believing the lies that interrogators make up to try to trick people into not shutting up, like the old "if you ask for a lawyer then we have no choice but to fill out your paperwork and process you, but maybe if you're just frank with us we can work something out and get you home."
posted by Rhomboid at 3:38 AM on October 4, 2010 [28 favorites]


the (copyrighted) Reid Technique

Legal nitpicking, but... the Reid Technique is not copyrighted, because it cannot be copyrighted. You cannot copyright an idea, or anything which would generally be covered by a patent. The term "Reid Technique" is a registered trademark though, which is probably what the OP meant.
posted by valkyryn at 3:45 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it legal for the cops to lie (for example, "Just tell us the truth and we'll go easy on you" when there's no way anyone is going to "go easy" on a guy confessing to murder) during an interrogation?
posted by pracowity at 4:17 AM on October 4, 2010


When you're accused of a crime you didn't commit, you want to show yourself to be the most cooperative, friendly, harmless, innocent person around, not someone who "makes things difficult"...

No, I don't want to do that. I want to do what Rhomboid says, refuse to answer any questions without my lawyer present. If you're accused, or suspected, or just being questioned in relation to a crime, it's the only sane approach. Remember, the cops can lie to you all they want, but if you get caught lying to them, you're in trouble.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:19 AM on October 4, 2010


Maybe they should look into adapting cell phone cameras - those don't seem to have nearly the failure rate.

They certainly should be required to record everything somewhere else -- the interrogation stops if there's no live video link to a distant legal advisor and a recording server -- so that even torching the interrogation room wouldn't excuse gaps in a recording.

But I suspect cops are against recordings partly (largely?) for the reasons we're all against people recording us doing our jobs: we don't want to be micromanaged by people we figure don't really understand our jobs, and we don't want people complaining when they see us coming in late and taking breaks and making mistakes instead of working 100 percent accurately 100 percent of the time. You'll never get them to voluntarily accept recording, no matter how much you argue that recordings protect cops from false accusations and so on.
posted by pracowity at 4:30 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it legal for the cops to lie

It is not only legal, it is encouraged. How do you think you get two conspirators to turn on each other? Tell each of them the other ratted them out.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:53 AM on October 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


You'll never get them to voluntarily accept recording, no matter how much you argue that recordings protect cops from false accusations and so on.

Why should they have to volunteer to accept it? They're our fucking servants. Make them do it.
posted by Jimbob at 4:54 AM on October 4, 2010 [14 favorites]


Why should they have to volunteer to accept it? They're our fucking servants. Make them do it.

Seconded.

This is a funny thing people often forget about the police and the army and so on: They are just like a Roomba.

"The Police" as an entity doesn't have any fundamental rights. "The Army" (of whatever nation) doesn't have any fundamental rights. We own it, we made it, it is our tool, to be disposed of however we wish.

If, in practice, it has any autonomy, it is not because it is entitled to autonomy. It should only be because we find it convenient to make it slightly autonomous.

Just like a roomba.
posted by hAndrew at 5:09 AM on October 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think it's more about the expense and reliability involved. Police cars are already wired to be recording whenever they make a stop, and it's distressing how frequently the recordings turn out to be unplayable due to recorder malfunction. Happens when suspects have recording setups in their own cars, too - it's just a function of recording technology. You see this almost as frequently as you see reports of police misconduct or brutality.

Cameras seem to "malfunction" just as often as 3 letter federal agencies "misplace" important documents, say like those video tapes of Gitmo interrogations. Funny thing, technology.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:15 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Although the British police are not exactly perfect, following a notorious series of miscarriages things were changed so that suspects don't get tricked (or pyschologically or physically tortured) into a confession. As I understand it now the technique is just to get the suspect to go over their story over and over again chipping away at all the details to discover any lies. The first part of this article about a gruesome murder enquiry is a good example.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:21 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The carwash does this when a few thousand dollars are at stake, yet we don't bother recording when life imprisonment or even the death penalty is imposed on the outcome of what happens in that room?

The carwash does it because it's their thousand dollars that are at stake.

The police don't because it's not their lives or freedom that are at stake.
posted by ymgve at 5:30 AM on October 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


The article does point out that recording full interrogations is a double-edged sword: it can be used to point out emotional torture, but it can also be used to bolster the prosecutor's case by denying avenues of appeal on the part of the defense when there has been no wrongdoing.
Curiously enough, however, research shows that police and prosecutors forced to tape their interrogations often wind up supporting the practice. One Minnesota prosecutor famously called it “the best thing we’ve ever had rammed down our throats.”
posted by Rhomboid at 5:36 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is not only legal, it is encouraged. How do you think you get two conspirators to turn on each other?

I know that's how it works in Kojak and purportedly works in real practice, but I'm wondering whether that behavior is (and should be) legal. Are these government employees allowed to say whatever they want as long as the results are satisfactory to most people? If they are encouraged to lie during an interrogation because it's deemed to be for the greater good, can they also lie to you on the street or when you phone them up for information? If the daily traffic jam on the local highway during rush hour is causing difficulty getting emergency vehicles through to hospital, can the cops stop drivers at the entrance ramp and lie to them (or strongly imply, anyway) that the highway is closed to all but essential traffic? How much duplicity is a cop permitted to employ on the job?
posted by pracowity at 5:39 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The Police" as an entity doesn't have any fundamental rights. "The Army" (of whatever nation) doesn't have any fundamental rights. We own it, we made it, it is our tool, to be disposed of however we wish.

I think this statement evidences some pretty squishy thinking about what constitutes "fundamental rights," but that aside, this is a bad way of thinking about this. Separation of powers doesn't work that way.

"The police" and "the army" are force-capable agencies of sovereign governments and may to a certain extent be used at the sovereign's discretion. In representative governments, those governments are pretty directly dependent upon the popular vote,* but the agencies of those governments are not. In that sense, they are autonomous, because while the sovereign entity from which they derive their authority is answerable politically, they themselves are decidedly not. The Army explicitly does not take orders from Congress, and federal law enforcement agencies don't either. While the legislature may define crimes and set certain boundaries on how investigations are to be carried out, they may not interfere directly with the actual investigation or prosecution of crimes.

This is a feature, not a bug. True, executive branches of government engage in abuses, but for all its flaws, the criminal justice system does manage to get it right** most of the time. But just imagine the chaos if every single investigation required or even admitted legislative input. Congress and the state legislatures simply have enough to do as it is without having to weigh in on every single misdemeanor offense. But more than that, in this case the executive can act as a sort of brake or mitigating factor against the legislature, which as we all know tends to be dominated by political compromise rather than rational decisionmaking. It isn't hard to imagine for clever legislators tacking on amendments to critical bills which would exempt their favored constituents from prosecution or investigation. The potential for abuse is just staggering.

So the idea that the police and armed forces are simply instruments of the popular will doesn't really quite get the nuances of the political structure. The executive agencies that use force--hell, almost all executive agencies for that matter--are, by design, insulated from the popular will, and have always been so.

*That's the theory anyway. YMMV.

*If by "get it right" we mean prosecute a sufficient number of crimes to maintain law and order in most parts of the country and returning guilty verdicts mostly against people who are actually guilty. Yes, there are massive, systemic problems in here, but most serious crimes are investigated with a level of rigor that usually leads to a prosecution, and most of the people convicted seem to be actually guilty. That's doing pretty well. Note that whether or not we're categorizing crimes properly isn't a law enforcement problem, it's a political problem. Don't blame the police because Congress passes dumb laws.
posted by valkyryn at 5:49 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe they should look into adapting cell phone cameras - those don't seem to have nearly the failure rate.

Oddly enough, cell phone cameras have the same failure rate as the cameras they put in police cars, once police get their hands on the cell phones.
posted by ryoshu at 5:58 AM on October 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Confessions are unreliable.

But self admission becomes evidence that is hard to get tossed out of court.

unplayable due to recorder malfunction.

Or if the tapes were all being changed at, say 9 AM.

Sometimes the malfunction is the tape being tore up and placed in several different dumpsters.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:06 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's why some of the people on the other end of the recording transmission have to be non-cops: ombudsmen, lawyers, ACLU, etc.

And set it up so the accused can have an outside recording service capture and maintain the accused's own off-site copy of the recording.
posted by pracowity at 6:15 AM on October 4, 2010


Is it legal for the cops to lie

Its legal for Fox news to, so why not the police?
http://www.foxbghsuit.com/
posted by rough ashlar at 6:18 AM on October 4, 2010


the Reid Technique is not copyrighted, because it cannot be copyrighted.

Depends on whether you consider the Technique to be literally the method or whether you're referring more generally to John E. Reid & Associates' training courses. I'm sure the 144 page manual that comes with the course is copyrighted, for example.

The point is, it may be technically possible to teach the method without infringing any copyright on the original materials, but it would be difficult and time-consuming to produce a 'clean' version that was reduced to only the functional aspects, and it would invite an infringement suit regardless.
posted by jedicus at 6:20 AM on October 4, 2010


I know that's how it works in Kojak and purportedly works in real practice, but I'm wondering whether that behavior is (and should be) legal.

The Supreme Court seems to think so. See: Frazier v. Cupp. See also: the Straight Dope on police lies during interrogation.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:30 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it legal for the cops to lie

Oh yes. The police can and do lie to you about all sorts of things. A classic interrogation technique when dealing with two co-defendants is to tell each that the other is pointing the finger at them, even though neither has said anything yet. The idea is that then one actually does confess in order to secure what they think will be favorable treatment. It's basically the real life version of the prisoner's dilemma.

Police owe people basically nothing. They don't even have a duty to protect and serve. The police can and will happily ignore crimes in progress, even when the victim has a court order instructing the police to protect them. Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005).

most serious crimes are investigated with a level of rigor that usually leads to a prosecution,

This is not true. The rate at which murders are solved in Boston, for example, is only 36%. Nationally it's only 61%, not much of a majority. I believe during the peak of violent crime in the 80s the rate in New York was in the 20-30 percent range.
posted by jedicus at 6:32 AM on October 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


...it's better that 10 innocent people go to jail than for 1 guilty person to walk free

While I have no doubt that a lot of police (and prosecutors) think this, the problem with that line of thought is that for each wrongful conviction, a guilty person does walk free.

More common, I think, is that the police and prosecutors convince themselves of a person's guilt before the facts are in, and are then willing to do whatever it takes to convict that person. Once the jump to that conclusion no amount of rational persuasion will get them to change their minds. You see this even in cases where DNA exonerates someone; often the prosecutor will not admit there was a mistake but will instead change their narrative to fit the new facts; "obviously there was a second defendant that we just haven't found yet; that's where the DNA came from", for example.
posted by TedW at 6:43 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


>most serious crimes are investigated with a level of rigor that usually leads to a prosecution,

This is not true. The rate at which murders are solved in Boston, for example, is only 36%.


That's one kind of crime. What about bank robbery? What about grand theft? Burglary? Embezzlement? I mean, I know our police forces are overworked and arguably underpaid, but do the stats for murder apply to other crimes too?
posted by valkyryn at 6:45 AM on October 4, 2010


Check out Act Two of the recent This American Life episode on "The Right To Remain Slilent". A recent effect that's driving horrible police practices is better computer tracking of crime trends and the corporate-like expectation of ever-improving crime solving statistics; police commanders want to improve their performance year to year, which means they're encouraged to do things such as bury reported crimes to make their precincts look safer year-to-year (with side effects as, say, failing to note a serial rapist in an area) and to do random sweeps of innocent citizens.

I don't envy police their jobs by any stretch of the imagination, but we aren't doing ourselves any favors when we establish unrealistic expectations at a political level and then make things consequence-free for the operatives that make it happen. This is another area where the politics of crime get in the way of what we should be pushing for: good, workable, effective, tested policy. Instead the politics about these issues tend to be about idiotic stand-ins for the real issues: increasing numbers of employed officers (the left) and curtailing constitutional rights for all but gun nuts (the right). It's maddening.
posted by norm at 6:53 AM on October 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


curtailing constitutional rights for all but gun nuts

Ya just ain't hanging with the right gun nuts - they think they are being stepped on.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:58 AM on October 4, 2010


Although the British police are not exactly perfect, following a notorious series of miscarriages things were changed so that suspects don't get tricked (or pyschologically or physically tortured) into a confession.

Some of those miscarriages were due to the development of a test to read the pages underneath the ones being written on so that defendants were eventually able to show that statements had been doctored by police such that they had a (false) confession. After some falsely convicted prisoners were able to demonstrate this through showing the pages were not prpared in the order they were used to gain a conviction in court, the UK police adopted a policy of putting a board between pages. This served no purpose but to allow easier falsification of evidence.
posted by biffa at 7:17 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's one kind of crime. What about bank robbery? What about grand theft? Burglary? Embezzlement? I mean, I know our police forces are overworked and arguably underpaid, but do the stats for murder apply to other crimes too?

Nationally the statistics are worse for other crimes. For 2009, here are the national averages of reported crimes that were cleared (i.e., at least one person has been arrested, charged, and turned over for prosecution). Note that the clearance rate isn't quite the rate of solved crimes (e.g., the person isn't necessarily found guilty), but given conviction rates it's close.

Murder and nonnegligent homicide: 66.6%
Forcible rape: 41.2%
Robbery: 28.2%
Aggravated Assault: 56.8%
Burglary: 12.5%
Larceny-theft: 21.5%
Motor vehicle theft: 12.4%

As you can see, that's not very confidence-inspiring, given that the numbers for murder are actually all over the place (e.g., Boston's abysmal clearance rate). Of course, it's hard to know how good the numbers could ever be. Some crimes, like a window smash-and-grab, just don't leave a lot of evidence on which to base an investigation or prosecution. Nonetheless, it is empirically not the case that "most serious crimes are investigated with a level of rigor that usually leads to a prosecution."
posted by jedicus at 7:22 AM on October 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Burglary: 12.5%
Motor vehicle theft: 12.4%


For crimes like that, you're pretty much on your own: bars, locks, and alarms.
posted by pracowity at 7:32 AM on October 4, 2010


Nationally the statistics are worse for other crimes.

Huh. Okay then.
posted by valkyryn at 7:39 AM on October 4, 2010


Excellent scene from Homicide: Life on the Street, "The Documentary" on police interrogations. "Get it straight. A police detective paid government money to put you in prison is explaining your absolute right to shut up before you say anything stupid."

A classic interrogation technique when dealing with two co-defendants is to tell each that the other is pointing the finger at them, even though neither has said anything yet.

"Oh yeah. He's tellin' it like a little bitch." -- Bunk
posted by kirkaracha at 7:51 AM on October 4, 2010


A classic interrogation technique when dealing with two co-defendants is to tell each that the other is pointing the finger at them

Another reason to always work alone.
posted by pracowity at 7:54 AM on October 4, 2010


Ya just ain't hanging with the right gun nuts - they think they are being stepped on.

And Obama has very conspicuously done nothing gun-related since taking office, which pretty well tells you what the real story is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:15 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the idea of simply recording everything: it's not a braindead suggestion, it's simply a math problem.

If this is what you/we want, then here's what you need to be ready to pay for:
  1. The VCR tapes/CDs/DVDs/RAIDs/storage of the day
  2. Someone to install the cameras and other equipment
  3. A place to keep 1. for, um, how long?
  4. A records manager to answer that question - someone who can:
    1. actually find the interrogation of Smith, Adam (I) rather than Smith, Adam (II) in a timely fashion
    2. destroy (gasp!) any recordings that are authorized
    3. protect the recordings from unauthorized access or destruction
  5. Newer versions of 1. when audio cassettes/VCR tapes/CDs/DVDs/etc. become obsolete
  6. Someone to convert all of 1. to 6.
Traditionally, these have not been sexy enough items to warrant (ahem) much attention.
posted by ES Mom at 8:18 AM on October 4, 2010


And Obama has very conspicuously done nothing gun-related since taking office

Because he's president and that's not his job per-say?

http://firearmsfreedomact.com/state-by-state/

The suit names U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as defendant, and is referred to as MSSA v. Holder.


I'd say Obama has no more interest in tackling guns than Bush II had in tackling Roe VS Wade.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:25 AM on October 4, 2010


On the idea of simply recording everything: it's not a braindead suggestion, it's simply a math problem.
If this is what you/we want, then here's what you need to be ready to pay for:


And yet, when citizens take on the burden of recording the results have been:
Criminal charges
Material taken and never returned.
Material taken and returned broken.
Material taken and the recording on them deleted, materials returned.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:30 AM on October 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't believe this hasn't been linked yet. This is an excellent video by a defense attorney: Never talk to the police
posted by desjardins at 8:50 AM on October 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'd say Obama has no more interest in tackling guns than Bush II had in tackling Roe VS Wade.

My point exactly, which is why it's very... curious that the gun nuts have been beating the "TAKING OUR GUNS TAKING OUR GUNS TAKING OUR GUNS" drum for the past couple of years.

The suit names U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as defendant, and is referred to as MSSA v. Holder.
The MFFA declares that any firearms, ammunition or firearms accessories made and retained in Montana are not subject to federal regulation under the power given to Congress in the U.S. Constitution to regulate commerce “among the several states.” The MFFA is a states’ rights challenge on Tenth Amendment grounds, with firearms serving as the vehicle for the challenge.
You cannot possibly believe that the Supreme Court is going to support any argument which looks even vaguely like "the states can choose to invalidate or ignore federal laws". Any effort spent trying to pass laws with such an effect is wasted and intended only to shore up the state legislators' cred with their constituency, not to actually improve the lives of their constituency.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:55 AM on October 4, 2010


Kirth Gerson wrote: "refuse to answer any questions without my lawyer present."

No, refuse to answer any questions without a competent criminal defense attorney present. Your estate planning attorney is probably worse than useless, unless his advice to you is "shut up and don't say anything until I get someone here who does criminal defense."

Recording is a good idea and could be done for stupidly cheap, but the criminal justice system is not a priority in this country. Sure, people scream when it fails, but that's as far as it ever goes.
posted by wierdo at 8:56 AM on October 4, 2010


desjardins, you beat me to it. I was just thinking the same thing reading through the comments.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 9:04 AM on October 4, 2010


it's very... curious that the gun nuts have been beating

And yet, if the Congress passes some kind of gun bill - why would Obama not sign it?

(and the 'taking our guns' drumbeat has been going on for decades. The difference is you are looking for that message when it is 'against' "your guy".)

You cannot possibly believe that the Supreme Court is going to support any argument which looks even vaguely like "the states can choose to invalidate or ignore federal laws".

Interesting interpretation of opposition to the decision of Wickard v. Filburn

And - ignoring law is exactly what nullification is about.

As one has to now have standing to bring a suit - exactly how are you going to get standing unless you break the law so you can get charged and thusly have standing?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:11 AM on October 4, 2010


And yet, if the Congress passes some kind of gun bill - why would Obama not sign it?

And they've done... what, exactly?

(and the 'taking our guns' drumbeat has been going on for decades. The difference is you are looking for that message when it is 'against' "your guy".)

Obama is not "my guy". Please stop assuming that anybody who thinks you're a loon is a Democrat.

And - ignoring law is exactly what nullification is about.

Jury nullification? Is that what you're bringing in? A principle that nearly everybody who isn't a crank regards as corrosive to the legitimacy of all laws, not only to the laws in question?

As one has to now have standing to bring a suit - exactly how are you going to get standing unless you break the law so you can get charged and thusly have standing?

What law are you even talking about? Enough with the verbal diarrhea- speak plainly instead of rambling.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2010


Is it legal for the cops to lie

To my understanding of the law, and in my experience of the world of work, lying is legal, accepted and encouraged (when expedient) in most fields. While explicit exceptions have been legislated for in some areas, there's no law against lying.

I guess this is fodder for another thread.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:27 AM on October 4, 2010


And yet, if the Congress passes some kind of gun bill - why would Obama not sign it?

Probably because of his track record (as President) of being more or less pro-gun rights. "He signed a law permitting guns to be taken into national parks. He signed another allowing guns as checked baggage on Amtrak. He acted to preserve an existing law limiting the use of government information on firearms it has traced." As President he has done virtually nothing on gun control. Anyone who still thinks Obama is going to invest political capital in gun control is ignorant, paranoid, or both.
posted by jedicus at 9:41 AM on October 4, 2010


Too often the police are so bent on "solving" a case that they'll ignore obvious evidence. Take the case of 14-year-old Michael Crowe. Interrogated for hours on end without his parents present, police more or less told him that he'd killed his sister and he just didn't remember. Luckily his confession was videotaped, but even once his parents obtained a copy and enlisted the help of an attorney, it was a while before they could get a judge to listen to them. After all, Michael had confessed, case solved. Why waste the court's time?
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:26 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


To my understanding of the law, and in my experience of the world of work, lying is legal, accepted and encouraged (when expedient) in most fields. While explicit exceptions have been legislated for in some areas, there's no law against lying.

I guess this is fodder for another thread.


not_that_epiphanius, I think it would be great fodder for this thread, if you're willing to share. (Certainly better than the Obama n' Guns derail.)
posted by availablelight at 10:29 AM on October 4, 2010


While explicit exceptions have been legislated for in some areas, there's no law against lying.

There are so many exceptions that they almost swallow the rule. Off the top of my head there's giving false statements, perjury, false advertising, forgery, libel, slander, larceny by trick, and all the various flavors of fraud.

Basically there's no law against lying when it doesn't matter; no harm, no foul, basically. But as soon as somebody's reputation, rights, or property are injured, the law draws the line.
posted by jedicus at 10:38 AM on October 4, 2010


I guess it's DNA or it didn't happen.

David Dougherty might disagree with you. Mishandled or misinterpreted DNA is a great way of getting a wrongful conviction.

Why should they have to volunteer to accept it? They're our fucking servants. Make them do it.

Hey, you work for a publicly funded university. Isn't the Australian taxpayer entitled to read your email and watch you work?
posted by rodgerd at 11:31 AM on October 4, 2010


Hey, you work for a publicly funded university. Isn't the Australian taxpayer entitled to read your email and watch you work?

You're joking, right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:44 AM on October 4, 2010


On police lying during questioning...
posted by coolguymichael at 11:58 AM on October 4, 2010


On the idea of simply recording everything: it's not a braindead suggestion, it's simply a math problem.

If this is what you/we want, then here's what you need to be ready to pay for:
Other then the cameras (very cheap these days) storing the videos is no more difficult then storing any other electronic records. You may need slightly more hard drive space, that's it.
posted by delmoi at 12:26 PM on October 4, 2010


Is it legal for the cops to lie

Very soon this is going to be more difficult for them to get away with, because right now, today, I can put software on my phone that records and streams to the web in real time. They can't take it away or destroy it. And this is just using generic technology; nothing purpose built. I'm betting that in the next few years there will be a huge market for clothing with multiple cameras built into it; for parties, youtube, etc. And once that happens, cops are going to find it really difficult to control the message the way they have done in the past.

Cops are always going to try to get away with the lie, but technology is going (and already has started to be) to be working against them in a big way.

And that's a Good Thing. There are plenty of good cops out there, and cameras will document this fact. As well as detailing all the criminality of their less then stellar counterparts.
posted by quin at 12:51 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, refuse to answer any questions without a competent criminal defense attorney present. Your estate planning attorney is probably worse than useless, unless his advice to you is "shut up and don't say anything until I get someone here who does criminal defense."

I understand what you're saying, and why you're saying it. The lawyer I was referring to IS a criminal defense attorney - not that other one who does real-estate closings and stuff. But really, the point is, don't talk to the police.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:20 PM on October 4, 2010


Excellent lecture to law students on how the police can manipulate anything you say to them: Do not talk to the police
posted by tippiedog at 1:25 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, you work for a publicly funded university. Isn't the Australian taxpayer entitled to read your email and watch you work?

Nobody is saying that every public employee should be exposed to total monitoring, that's a strawman. What I'm saying is that the police, public servants in an enormous position of power and trust, should be recorded when conducting interrogations, situations of great importance to the freedom of an individual citizen, so that the circumstances of a confession can be fairly evaluated after the fact by judges and juries. I don't want to read the cop's email and I don't care what he talks about in the squad room, but what happens in that interrogation room is too important not to be recorded. Or as the police might put it, too important to be recorded.
posted by zachlipton at 2:28 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]



Cops are always going to try to get away with the lie, but technology is going (and already has started to be) to be working against them in a big way.

And that's a Good Thing. There are plenty of good cops out there, and cameras will document this fact.


If the policy doesn't swing the way of making it a serious crime to record a cop, in which case it won't matter that you can stream the footage, because they'll come down on you all the harder for that crime.

There needs to be a 2nd amendment movement to protect the weapons of the information age. They're far more lethal to tyranny and far less incidentally lethal to individual citizens, and yet they're increasingly more restricted than actual firearms.

This isn't to say there aren't real privacy issues. I think we're eventually going to have to hash out some subtleties of where/when people have an expectation of privacy and work harder to protect it where they do as well as working harder to reduce privacy where it's important to have strong clear records of what happens. But there are some circumstances where I think it's very clear, and criminal legal proceedings are one of them.
posted by weston at 2:41 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The idea is that then one actually does confess in order to secure what they think will be favorable treatment. It's basically the real life version of the prisoner's dilemma.

That's an interesting way to phrase it. The prisoner's dilemma was named for the very reason that this technique is so ubiquitous as to be completely non-noteworthy. The technique has been around as long as modern law enforcement. Oh, undoubtedly before that too but in the past they were a lot more likely just to beat a confession out of you.
posted by Justinian at 3:34 PM on October 4, 2010


"Jury nullification? Is that what you're bringing in? A principle that nearly everybody who isn't a crank regards as corrosive to the legitimacy of all laws, not only to the laws in question?"

Huh. John Jay and Thomas Jefferson were cranks? I didn't know that. But to be fair, who the hell is Thomas Jefferson to tell us what the constitution intended, right?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:35 PM on October 4, 2010


I've occasionally seen that show.. what's it called... The First 48?... anyway, it's the first 48 hours of a murder investigation, and, while obviously edited for time and drama, it amazes me how often a simple "Tell me what you did and I can help you" and "Once your lawyer shows up I can't help you" (with the occasional "she probably had it coming, right?" ), gets people to just confess. I end up yelling at the criminal to shut up, just because I cannot believe how stupid he is.

Anyway I don't have a problem with this kind of misleading technique, and feel that there's a huge difference between that and astonishing and horrifying cases like the Michael Crowe case up above.

Even so, the line does get crossed, and I see fighting against recording interrogations is practically an admission of unethical conduct.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:42 PM on October 4, 2010


Thomas Jefferson was a crank, in a lot of ways - like his "There should be an armed revolution every 20 years, to keep the government on its toes" plan. If you think Jay was in favor of it, you are grotesquely misreading Brailsford.
posted by kafziel at 3:43 PM on October 4, 2010


But to be fair, who the hell is Thomas Jefferson to tell us what the constitution intended, right?

Jefferson was in France while the Constitution was being written. While he was influential in many ways (e.g., he drafted The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1777, which eventually was passed as the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1786 and was a major influence on the First Amendment), he was not directly involved in the drafting of the Constitution.

John Jay was likewise not present at the Constitutional Convention, though he worked to encourage the ratification of the resulting Constitution.

Anyway, the founding fathers were not perfect. They had lots of good ideas and some bad ones, too. Jury nullification is one of the bad ones.
posted by jedicus at 3:49 PM on October 4, 2010


and you're entitled to that opinion, but at the very least I think we can agree those people aren't cranks, and calling those of us who believe in the principle "cranks" isn't very fair to a complex and centuries-old issue.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:04 PM on October 4, 2010


In case anyone wants further reading on jury nullification, here is a fairly exhaustive law review article on the subject.
posted by jedicus at 4:23 PM on October 4, 2010


Giving a shit about what the Founders intended is generally a sign of having really poorly thought-out politics. It's nothing more than lazy-ass argument by authority and I'm sick of the almost religious reverence people have for the scumbags who founded the US.

Guess what, guys? They were rich people who didn't want to pay taxes to provide for their own defense. They owned slaves and at least in Jefferson's case raped them. They were not paragons of virtue or special inheritors of political acumen; they were rich people who wanted themselves on top instead of being under the aristocracy of the nation they were citizens of. Many of them were heavily elitist and anti-democratic, and the government they set up was designed to empower the wealthy over the poor.

They were opportunistic asses who wrote slavery and bigotry into that founding document everybody likes to pretend is holy, and the way people act like the Founders were the Buddhas of Politics is sickening and lazy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:47 PM on October 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Giving a shit about what the Founders intended is generally a sign of having really poorly thought-out politics.

So are sickeningly lazy-ass generalizations like that one, not that it's stopped you before.

It's possible to think that the Founders weren't perfect and that their intentions should not count for much in policymaking, while still believing that the guys who wrote the document might know a thing or two about how it's supposed to work.
posted by valkyryn at 5:02 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jury nullification? Is that what you're bringing in? A principle that nearly everybody who isn't a crank regards as corrosive to the legitimacy of all laws, not only to the laws in question?

But whether you like it or not, isn't jury nullification an inherent part of our system? We can discourage it, and we do through oaths, admonishments, and the zealous vetting of jurors, but there is really only one way to do prevent it: substitute the judgement of judges for that of juries--a pretty scary thing to do, and arguably unconstitutional. If you have the right to a trial by jury, it stands to reason that the judge can't just ignore the jury's not guilty and impose a guilty verdict anyway, because then what's the point of having the jury in the first place? (Not that directed verdicts and judgements notwithstanding don't happen, but that's the theory.)

Complaining about jury nullification seems a lot like complaining about the weather to me, though I hear weather modification efforts may have quite small effects.
posted by zachlipton at 5:48 PM on October 4, 2010


You can say the same thing about murder. You can't perfectly stop all people from killing anybody, ever, but that doesn't mean it should be tolerated, promoted, or accepted as "an inherent part of the system".
posted by kafziel at 5:58 PM on October 4, 2010


Thomas Jefferson was a crank

If TJ was a crank, I don't want to be right. Sure, he had his problems, like all of the Founding Fathers, but I don't know of any other group more legitimate as the founders of our government. Most countries don't have as good starting point as that, so I'll take it. I don't venerate the those guys, but I certainly consider their opinions at least partially informed and think about 'em.

As far as jury nullification, I'm surprisingly okay with it. Though it can lead to very bad outcomes, it also is the last (judicial) check on power by allowing twelve citizens to act as a tribunal on the legitimacy of a government act. I wish there was more of that happening during prosecutions of perfectly free speech and assembly . . .
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:23 PM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


pracowity: "Is it legal for the cops to lie (for example, "Just tell us the truth and we'll go easy on you" when there's no way anyone is going to "go easy" on a guy confessing to murder) during an interrogation?"

Not only is it OK for the police to lie, but they have ab-so-lute-ly zero power to decide to go "easy on you" unless they're talking about violence or whatever. They have no say in the charges or the sentence.
posted by rhizome at 12:09 AM on October 5, 2010


They have no say in the charges or the sentence.

That's not strictly true. Judges have a lot of discretion in handing out sentences, and if the police testify that a defendant was cooperative and contrite, that will tend to encourage him to hand down a lighter sentence. If, on the other hand, the police testify that the defendant acted like a punk, the judge is more likely to give a sentence at the upper end of the range.
posted by valkyryn at 3:40 AM on October 5, 2010


At this point I treat anybody who isn't in favour of recorders on police cruisers, in interrogation rooms, and on helmets with suspicion. As in, like, suspicion that they might punch me in the face for a larf.
posted by tehloki at 4:35 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, it's illegal for the police to intervene on your behalf in the courtroom. Anything they say in your favor can be tossed out as "heresay" by the DA.
posted by triolus at 1:18 PM on October 5, 2010


Actually, it's illegal for the police to intervene on your behalf in the courtroom. Anything they say in your favor can be tossed out as "heresay" by the DA.

It's spelled hearsay, and that's not how it or anything else works. Please stop spreading misinformation about the law.
posted by kafziel at 2:12 PM on October 5, 2010


Please stop spreading misinformation about the law.

Well, it's close. If you're spreading misinformation about RELIGIOUS law it could be "heresy", in certain circles.
posted by norm at 2:51 PM on October 5, 2010


"Resisting the Reid technique is dead simple: ask for a lawyer and then shut the hell up."

Unless you're in Canada.
posted by howling fantods at 8:42 AM on October 8, 2010


(and the 'taking our guns' drumbeat has been going on for decades. The difference is you are looking for that message when it is 'against' "your guy".)
Obama is not "my guy". Please stop assuming that anybody who thinks you're a loon is a Democrat.


If I was speaking to YOU DIRECTLY - I would have said "pope Guilty". I was using you in the communal sense - as in you the reader.

I'll note how Pope Guilty don't actually address the issue of efforts by others under the color of the State to 'take our guns'.

And if Pope Guilty wants to have a verbal dance over "Obama" and what "Obama" has done/not done many pages of this thread can be wasted for you to stake out 'has the president signed a bill' or perhaps 'Obama can' come and take your guns personally - he's one man VS 300 million' or whatever would make Pope Guilty feel right and justified in Pope Guilty's eyes WRT Pope Guilty's statements. But that becomes metatalk filler, not to mention a bore.

And - ignoring law is exactly what nullification is about.

Jury nullification? Is that what you're bringing in?


Did I say *JURY* nullification?

No I did not. I'm rather sure if I ment jury nullification I'd have said that.

The tenth-ers Do try to keep up with the political landscape outside of the Blue.

[jury nullification] - A principle that nearly everybody who isn't a crank regards as corrosive to the legitimacy of all laws, not only to the laws in question?

"It is left... to the juries, if they think the permanent judges are under any bias whatever in any cause, to take on themselves to judge the law as well as the fact. They never exercise this power but when they suspect partiality in the judges; and by the exercise of this power they have been the firmest bulwarks of English liberty." --Thomas Jefferson to Abbe Arnoux, 1789. ME 7:423, Papers 15:283

"If the question before [the magistrates] be a question of law only, they decide on it themselves: but if it be of fact, or of fact and law combined, it must be referred to a jury. In the latter case of a combination of law and fact, it is usual for the jurors to decide the fact and to refer the law arising on it to the decision of the judges. But this division of the subject lies with their discretion only. And if the question relate to any point of public liberty, or if it be one of those in which the judges may be suspected of bias, the jury undertake to decide both law and fact. If they be mistaken, a decision against right which is casual only is less dangerous to the state and less afflicting to the loser than one which makes part of a regular and uniform system." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIV, 1782. ME 2:179

"The juries [are] our judges of all fact, and of law when they choose it." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:35

"We all know that permanent judges acquire an esprit de corps; that, being known, they are liable to be tempted by bribery; that they are misled by favor, by relationship, by a spirit of party, by a devotion to the executive or legislative; that it is better to leave a cause to the decision of cross and pile than to that of a judge biased to one side; and that the opinion of twelve honest jurymen gives still a better hope of right than cross and pile does." --Thomas Jefferson to Abbe Arnoux, 1789. ME 7:423, Papers 15:283


That crazy crank Thomas Jefferson.

As one has to now have standing to bring a suit - exactly how are you going to get standing unless you break the law so you can get charged and thusly have standing?

What law are you even talking about? Enough with the verbal diarrhea- speak plainly instead of rambling.


Rather plain. But I'll use short words so Pope Guilty can understand.

Mid 1920's - The court system decided to bring a lawsuit you had to have been directly effected. This, as a term of art, is called STANDING.

Courts exist to settle disputes. If you do not agree with a law - how do you dispute the law in the courts?

Answer - you have to break the law so you can then go in front of the courts to then have the argument heard.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:12 PM on October 10, 2010


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