Coming to PEACE with Police Interrogations: Abandoning the Reid Technique and Adopting the PEACE Method.

AuthorGavin, Delia C.
PositionPreparation and planning, engage and explain, account, closure and evaluate technique

Table of Contents INTRODUCTION 158 I. History of Police Interrogations in the United States 160 II. The Reid Technique and its Inherent Issues 164 A. What is the Reid Technique and How is it Used? 164 B. The Reid Technique's Inherent Issues 169 C. Risk of False Confessions 172 III. Abandoning the Reid Technique and Adopting the PEACE method 176 CONCLUSION 180 INTRODUCTION

Imagine spending twenty years in prison for a crime that you did not commit. That is exactly what happened to Juan Rivera (Mr. Rivera). In 1992, the former special education student became the subject of a police investigation. (1) The investigation started after an 11-year-old girl was raped and murdered while babysitting. (2) For two months, the police had no suspects or leads. (3) Finally, a jailhouse informant pointed to Mr. Rivera, a nineteen-year-old Puerto Rico native with psychological problems. (4)

Despite the fact that there was no physical evidence that linked Mr. Rivera to the crime, and he was also wearing an ankle monitor, (5) proving that he was at home at the time of the murder, he was interrogated for four days. (6) Investigators interrogated Mr. Rivera using the Reid technique. The Reid technique is a highly controversial interrogation method because of its risk of producing false confessions. (7)

On the first day that police questioned Mr. Rivera, he denied having any knowledge about the crime. (8) Still, investigators brought him to Reid Headquarters twice, where the investigators gave him a polygraph that displayed mixed results. (9) Finally, around midnight on day four, Mr. Rivera gave up, began crying, and nodded when investigators asked if he raped and killed the young girl. (10) The interrogation continued for three more hours, then investigators left the room at around 3:00 a.m. to type a confession. (11)

Almost immediately following his return to his cell, Mr. Rivera was found "beating his head against the wall." (12) He was moved from his normal cell to a padded one, where he continued to beat his head against the wall. (13) At 4:00 a.m., a nurse spoke with him and noticed that he was unaware of his surroundings, incoherent, and had pulled out clumps of hair with skin attached. (14) The nurse determined that Mr. Rivera was suffering from a psychotic episode. (15)

Less than five hours later, investigators brought Mr. Rivera his confession paperwork that detailed what they had discussed earlier that night. (16) However, state attorneys found that the confession was "riddled with incorrect and implausible information" and they advised the investigators to continue the interrogation. (17) On the same day, investigators continued interrogating Mr. Rivera until they obtained a signed confession that had a "plausible account of the crime." (18)

At Mr. Rivera's first trial in 1993, the prosecution relied heavily on the second signed confession. (19) Subsequently, Mr. Rivera was then convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of an eleven-year-old girl. (20) However, this conviction was reversed based on trial errors and Mr. Rivera received a second trial, which occurred in 1998. (21) The jury took 36 hours to deliberate and again found Rivera guilty. (22) He received the same sentence. (23)

Nearly seven years after the second trial, DNA evidence found on the victim proved that Mr. Rivera was not the child's rapist. (24) The judge that sentenced Mr. Rivera after both trials personally vacated his conviction and granted yet another retrial. (25) In 2009, Mr. Rivera was tried for the third time and was still found guilty despite the exculpatory DNA evidence. (26)

In the opinion released after his third and final appeal, the Illinois Appellate court's opinion "chastised the prosecution for advancing 'highly improbable' theories that distorted evidence 'to an absurd degree." (27) After serving twenty years in prison, Mr. Rivera was finally released in 2012. (28)

The interrogation techniques used in Mr. Rivera's case were extremely problematic, and those same methods are still used today. This comment first discusses the history of police interrogations and the small legal steps that have been taken to protect individuals found in these situations. Next, it explores the Reid technique and what problems can arise when that interrogation technique is used improperly. Finally, it proposes that United States law enforcement agencies should move away from the Reid Technique and instead adopt the PEACE method of interviewing which has the same confession rate, but without the risks.


    "If I have to violate the constitution or my oath of office, I'll violate the Constitution"-Buffalo Commissioner of Police

    Despite the issues with today's methods of conducting police interrogations, interrogations today are leaps and bounds better than they were in the early 1900s. Up until the 1930s, police engaged in tactics that were physically abusive and violent. (29) This method, known as the "third degree," (30) was examined in the famous Wickersham Commission Reports. (31)

    President Herbert Hoover sought to improve the failing criminal justice system, and thus established the Wickersham Commission to do the first in-depth national crime analysis. (32) One of the few reports to gain any public attention was the Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement. (33) The report exposed several issues related to police use of physical brutality, threats, and denial of the right to counsel. (34) In fact, this type of unruly behavior was accepted and widespread within the policing community. (35) For example, a Police Commissioner in Buffalo stated, "[i]f I have to violate the constitution or my oath of office, I'll violate the constitution." (36)

    The first time the government shed light on and condemned its own failures with respect to police conduct was in the Wickersham Commission Reports. (37) Although these reports characterized nearly all police as "lawless," conduct within interrogations was especially brutal. Police would not just burn, kick, and hit the suspects- suspects were strategically beaten with hoses and sandbags so there would be no visible marks left behind. (38) Suspects were also "force[ed] to walk barefoot on electrically wired mats" and denied food. (39)

    Although these tactics were illegal, (40) the Commission found that police were using them in secret. (41) The Wickersham Commission Reports exposed the secretive behavior and recommended significant criminal procedure changes. (42) One section of the report on lawlessness in law enforcement provided a list of "excuses" that police use to justify the use of the third degree, which according to the authors "deserved consideration." (43) One justification was that the third degree was only used on certain suspects- the guilty ones. (44) To support this argument, detectives implied that it was necessary to use their fists rather than questioning because "some criminals are the smartest people in the world ... [who are] able to hire the best lawyers." (45) Additionally, detectives justified their actions by asserting that if the suspects had time to consult lawyers and the third degree was abolished, many guilty men would not have been convicted. (46)

    The Fifth Amendment protects people from self-incrimination. (47) Since the United States Constitution grants individuals this right to be free from self-incrimination, something needed to be done to combat coercive police behavior. In 1966, the Supreme Court dealt directly with the issue of whether a confession obtained during a police interrogation is admissible, and if so what procedural safeguards would adequately protect a person's privilege to be free from self-incrimination. (48) Nearly every American has a general knowledge of Miranda v. Arizona. This case established the Miranda warnings- the ones that appear in nearly every crime show. In these shows, the arresting officers typically state, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you." (49) Many police departments use similar language when giving these warnings because Miranda set forth the rule that defendants need to be aware of their rights at the time of arrest. (50)

    In Miranda, the court consolidated four cases that involved defendants who were unaware of their right to remain silent during police interrogations. (51) In each case, either police, detectives, or prosecutors isolated the defendant from the world and questioned him or her about their alleged acts. (52) Each defendant made a statement that was admitted and used against them at trial even though they were not advised of their rights. (53) The court explicitly held that statements made in a custodial interrogation may not be used if police did not implement "procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination." (54)

    One important point is that Miranda warnings must only be given before custodial interrogations. (55) Specifically, "custody" occurs when a reasonable person would not feel free to leave. (56) However, this does not always require a formal arrest. (57) Additionally, "interrogation" means that the police must simply be trying to elicit a response from the person- the police do not have to be asking direct questions. (58)

    The Supreme Court stated that before someone is questioned, the person must be aware of their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney. (59) These rights may be waived if the person waives "voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently." (60) If at any point, the person "indicates in any manner" that they would like to speak to an attorney, questioning must immediately stop regardless of whether the person has already answered questions. (61)

    In the majority opinion, the Court discussed problematic techniques...

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