Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New Book: False Confessions "A Systemic Feature of American Criminal Justice"

Via Grits for Breakfast, we see that Anne Reed at Deliberations is highlighting a new book by University of San Francisco law professor Richard Leo, entitled Police Interrogation and American Justice. According to the book,
[t]he problem of false confession is not limited to a small number of cases. These studies reveal that false confessions are therefore not an anomaly but a systematic feature of American criminal justice, despite procedural safeguards such as Miranda rights and a constitutional prohibition against legally coercive interrogation techniques. . . . Unless police change their procedures for selecting suspects and their interrogation practices, false confessions will continue to occur regularly.

Per Reed, "Leo narrates the development of increasingly sophisticated techniques of police interrogation, techniques that manage to break down a defendant's psychological defenses and build a detailed and compelling story for the jury at the same time."

So if you can lay your hands on a copy, the book may provide valuable background information you can use to prepare for cross-examinaning the agents who interrogated your client, and for countering prosecution arguments that focus on a supposedly damning confession. It may also be chock full of useful fodder for attacking relevant conduct enhancements that are based on nothing more than a statement the defendant allegedly made during post-arrest interrogation.

If you don't feel like shelling out the dough for Professor Leo's book (which Harvard University Press appears to be quite proud of, if the $45 list price is any indication), Volokh Conspirator Orin Kerr helpfully points us to a free article covering similar ground:
Berkeley lawprof Charles Weisselberg has posted a fascinating new draft article, Mourning Miranda, on how the police in California currently implement the Miranda warnings. Weisselberg looks closely at how police officers in California are trained to conduct interrogations, and he concludes that the police interpret Miranda to let them do many of the things that the U.S. Supreme Court found objectionable in 1966 that led the Court to create the Miranda framework.
Although Professor Weisselberg's article is focused on the California fuzz, many of the interrogation techniques he describes in detail are apparently used by law enforcement agencies around the country.

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