Gary Stuart

 

On his book Innocent Until Interrogated: The True Story of the Buddhist Temple Massacre and the Tucson Four

Cover Interview of September 20, 2010

Lastly

As I say in the Epilogue, “The ordeals of Leo Bruce, Mike McGraw, Mark Nunez, Dante Parker, George Peterson, and Robert Armstrong are classic examples of the way some law enforcement agencies manipulate suspects, exploiting their vulnerability or their naiveté while ignoring hard evidence. Americans need to be wary of confessions in general and incensed by the ready acceptance of police-induced confessions by investigators, prosecutors, judges, and juries.”

I’m hardly alone in thinking that both true and false police-induced confessions raise important policy questions.

In 2009, Professors Saul M. Kassin, Steven A. Drizin, Thomas Grisso, Gisli H. Gudjonsson, Richard A. Leo, and Allison D. Redlich collaborated in publishing a 118-page white paper modestly titled Police-Induced Confessions: Risk Factors and Recommendations.

These six highly regarded academics are among the most frequently published authors on the subject.  Their combined work over the past two decades confirms what the academic world knows well—but the rest of the world has yet to perceive: Wrongful convictions based on false confessions have become epidemic.

Their data prove the obvious: “False confessions raise serious questions concerning a chain of events by which innocent citizens are judged deceptive in interviews and misidentified for interrogation; waive their rights to silence and to counsel; and are induced into making false narrative confessions that form a sufficient basis for subsequent conviction.”

They urge us to commission a broad review of the state of the science on interviewing and interrogation.  They suggest the need “to identify the dispositional characteristics (e.g., traits associated with Miranda waivers, compliance, and suggestibility; adolescence; mental retardation; psychopathology) and situational-interrogation factors (e.g., prolonged detention and isolation; confrontation; presentations of false evidence; minimization) that influence the voluntariness and reliability of confessions.”

In other words, false confessions are a daily reality, not an invention of the liberal media or an artifact of a few rogue cops trying to close a case.

Interrogation techniques and the extraction of confessions are subject to historical, cultural, political, legal, and other contextual influences.  But my book does something that the most ambitious academic papers cannot do: It establishes the connection between the suspect’s submissiveness and the interrogator’s dominance as a concrete narrative, not as a policy directive.

My wish for Innocent Until Interrogated is simple: I would like to change the public’s mind.

We Americans should quit thinking of ourselves as being too smart and too strong to be manipulated into confessing to crimes we did not commit.  It happened to the five men profiled in the book.  It could happen to any one of us.


© 2010 Gary Stuart