EXAMINING POLICE INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES: Securing The Confession
The focus of this blog series has been to expose the deliberate interplay of psychological techniques designed to elicit a confession. The nine step method explained in Criminal Interrogation and Confessions (1986) by Inbau and Reid culminates in steps seven to nine and the resulting confession.
The Alternative QuestionStep seven is the alternative question. An alternative question is a question which presents two choices to the suspect concerning some aspect of his crime. Although both choices are an admission of guilt, one of the choices is morally appealing. An example of an alternative question includes, "Have you done this many times before or was this the first time?"; "Did you blow that money on drugs and partying, or did you use it to buy food for your family?"; "Was this whole thing your idea or did you get talked into it?" None of these alternative questions addresses the actual consequences of the crime which the suspect may encounter so as not to be interpreted as a promise of leniency. Once a suspect opts for the more palatable option and acknowledges culpability, the oral confession follows.
The Oral ConfessionIn step eight, the interrogator develops corroborating evidence to fortify the acceptance of responsibility and obtains an oral confession.
The Written ConfessionIn step nine, the oral confession is reduced to writing.
DON'T TALKThe interrogation is analogous to a dance; one party leads and controls the steps of the passive party. The first step is the accusation which advances to the development of the theme. The interrogator is always leading. The suspect will try to assert himself only to be ignored or dismissed. When the interrogator has refused to hear any denials, the suspect will withdraw and become passive. Once this vulnerable mood sets it, the interrogator switches tactics and draws the suspect in close and calls him by his name. Feeling validated by this attention, the interrogator delivers the alternative question and the suspect is presented with two choices with one being clearly more desirable. If the suspect selects an option, the interrogator needs only to wrap up the dance; the confession is a done deal. The interrogation is never an opportunity for a suspect to explain his side. It is never anything other than a method by which the interrogator extracts a confession. The Miranda admonition cautions a suspect that he has the right to be silent and anything said may be used against him in court. Heed the admonition and don't think that you are the exception; the person who can use the interrogation to your benefit. Stay silent and ask for an attorney.