MoaM: on police interrogation

Like many, I am watching Making of a Murderer.  As I watched the interrogation scenes I had a thought I’d like to share:

If you think that LEOs being manipulative, aggressive, and straight up lying during interrogation is corruption or a fluke then you probably haven’t been interrogated before.

It is legal for the cops to lie during your interrogation.  Depending on your state they may even be allowed to produce forged official documents like forensic results.  This behavior is called “strategy” (United States v. Russell) or “strategic deception” (Illinois v. Perkins). 

In MoaM we see cops manipulating and guiding some not-very-bright people into psychological knots.  Some hold their ground and some (like a borderline retarded teenager) seem to coalesce and give the detectives what they want.

“Hey”, you might say. “That’s no big deal.  If you’re innocent you have nothing to fear from the police”.

How I wish that were true.  Let’s try something:

Thought experiment

Consider each member of your current household.  Now imagine each of them is pulled in for interrogation on a crime they did not commit.

Now run through the Reid interrogation process, the usual process for police interrogation:

  • Step 1 – Direct confrontation. Advise the subject that the evidence has led the police to the individual as a suspect. Offer the person an early opportunity to explain why the offense took place.
  • Step 2 – Try to shift the blame away from the suspect to some other person or set of circumstances that prompted the suspect to commit the crime. That is, develop themes containing reasons that will psychologically justify or excuse the crime. Themes may be developed or changed to find one to which the accused is most responsive.
  • Step 3 – Try to discourage the suspect from denying his or her guilt. Reid training video: “If you’ve let him talk and say the words ‘I didn’t do it’[…]the more difficult it is to get a confession.”
  • Step 4 – At this point, the accused will often give a reason why he or she did not or could not commit the crime. Try to use this to move towards the confession.
  • Step 5 – Reinforce sincerity to ensure that the suspect is receptive.
  • Step 6 – The suspect will become quieter and listen. Move the theme discussion towards offering alternatives. If the suspect cries at this point, infer guilt.
  • Step 7 – Pose the “alternative question”, giving two choices for what happened; one more socially acceptable than the other. The suspect is expected to choose the easier option but whichever alternative the suspect chooses, guilt is admitted. There is always a third option which is to maintain that they did not commit the crime.
  • Step 8 – Lead the suspect to repeat the admission of guilt in front of witnesses and develop corroborating information to establish the validity of the confession.
  • Step 9 – Document the suspect’s admission or confession and have him or her prepare a recorded statement (audio, video or written).


How certain are you that your innocent family members wouldn’t crack under this interrogation and provide false evidence against themselves?

I was interrogated by LEOs for a crime I did not commit, and did not even know had been committed.  The detective lied, twisted every word, and made insinuations about the sexual behavior of my Significant Other (completely unrelated to the crime they were assigned to).   When challenged on this behavior the interrogator crowed that he was able to do this with impunity.  What a hero.  Sure am glad my tax dollars go to helping this guy abuse innocent citizens.  <spit>

Having had this experience my advice is to never answer police questions (other than your name which is generally required).  Think this is overkill?  Watch this:



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