Popular Posts

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kerrville - Hotbed of Crime and Drugs? True Detective and Miranda

From reading the local paper, a visitor might get the idea that Kerrville is not Mayberry USA. More like Ciudad Juarez or Chicago. Here are a few front page headlines from the last few days:

Mentally ill meth user gets prison
Two face meth dealing charges
Man gets prison time for local bakery robbery
Review of convicted child killer’s release date continues  (about Kerrville's own Genene Jones)
Crime: 40th arrest follows assault on mother
Police investigate attempted kidnapping
Man jailed on multiple felony charges
Residents lose thousands in award, vehicle selling scams
Coach handbags among items stolen from vehicles Gunshots lead to arrests of suspected illegal immigrants

True Detective and Getting Confessions

I loved the recent miniseries True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two state police detectives after a serial killer in South Louisiana. The MConaughey character, Rust Spencer, is, to use understatement, unconventional in his philosophy and tactics. Some of the most powerful scenes are when he gets some suspect to confess to him like he is a sympathetic priest. For example, see this clip on youtube

I usually can't watch lawyer shows, but I love cop dramas and novels - Spencer, Jesse Stone, Fargo, and many of the British shows. They usually have a pattern - a murder, the sleuth investigating and following leads and interviewing suspects and witnesses, and finally the showdown where the killer confesses.

A real mystery to me is why anyone would voluntarily go to the police station and talk to the police, if there was the slightest possibility they would be a suspect. Cops will tell suspects they need to give their side to the story and "clear things up." They will ask the suspect to take a polygraph. I can't count the number of cases I've had where the police used the polygraph to intimidate and pressure a suspect to keep talking, all the while the tape recorder is running.

In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), where the term Miranda warning comes from, Chief Justice Warren Burger described some of the tactics that officers use:

The Court began by stressing that the “modern practice of in-custody interrogation is psychologically rather than physically oriented,” and that “blood of the accused is not the only hallmark of an unconstitutional inquisition.” The Court went on to summarize the numerous techniques that are considered the most effective psychological stratagems typically employed during interrogations:
The interrogation takes place in the investigator's office so that the subject is deprived of every psychological advantage. In his own home he may be confident, indignant, or recalcitrant. He is more keenly aware of his rights and more reluctant to tell of his indiscretions of criminal behavior within the walls of his home. Moreover his family and other friends are nearby, their presence lending moral support. In his office, the investigator possesses all the advantages. The atmosphere suggests the invincibility of the forces of the law;
The police display an air of confidence in the suspect's guilt and from outward appearance to maintain only an interest in confirming certain details;
The guilt of the subject is to be posited as a fact;
The interrogator should direct his comments toward the reasons why the subject committed the act, rather than court failure by asking the subject whether he did it;
The officers are instructed to minimize the moral seriousness of the offense, to cast blame on the victim or on society;
Explanations to the contrary or protestations of innocence are dismissed and discouraged;
Where emotional appeals and tricks are employed to no avail, the interrogator must rely on an oppressive atmosphere of dogged persistence. He must interrogate steadily and without relent, leaving the subject no prospect of surcease. He must dominate his subject and overwhelm him with his inexorable will to obtain the truth. He should interrogate for a spell of several hours pausing only for the subject's necessities in acknowledgment of the need to avoid a charge of duress that can be technically substantiated. In a serious case, the interrogation may continue for days, with the required intervals for food and sleep, but with no respite from the atmosphere of domination;
The examiner is to concede him the right to remain silent to invoke an undermining effect. First, the suspect is disappointed in his expectation of an unfavorable reaction on the part of the interrogator. Secondly, a concession of this right to remain silent impresses the subject with the apparent fairness of his interrogator. After this psychological conditioning, however, the officer is told to point out the incriminating significance of the suspect's refusal to talk;
If the request is for an attorney, the interrogator may suggest that the subject save himself or his family the expense of any such professional service, particularly if he is innocent of the offense under investigation. The interrogator may also add, ‘I'm only looking for the truth, and if you're telling the truth, that's it. You can handle this by yourself.’

Michael Morton talked numerous times to cops investigating his wife's brutal murder. He was 100% innocent but that didn't keep him from spending 25 years in prison. The lesson is, unless you have a bullet proof alibi, if you have any inkling that you are a suspect, get a lawyer!

No comments:

Post a Comment