Friday, March 31, 2006

Ethical interrogations and the rape victim

If an interrogation results in a confession, why should rape victims care about the ethics of the interrogators? Because of the chance that the confession was a false one.

Rape victims can be harmed by false confessions in the following ways:

1) The same techniques that can lead to false confessions can lead to false retractions. And false retractions can lead to criminal charges against crime victims.

2) If the wrong person is arrested, the cops will most likely stop looking for the person who actually committed the crime.

3) The more rape convictions are overturned because of false confessions, the more those who don't understand the seriousness of sexual assault will see most rape charges as a lie perpetrated by men haters.

4) The worst of the scum know about these techniques and therefore have better defenses against them, including directing the cops to some unsuspecting and innocent person.

So how does someone get you to make a false confession?

Two components are necessary.

1) They tell you they have evidence that proves your guilt when that isn't true.

One tool for doing this, according to the ABC Primetime episode that aired last night, is the Voice Stress Analyzer. A Pentagon study asserts that the $10,000 machines are no more accurate than flipping a coin. The ABC program asserted that many police departments use the machine as a prop.

2) They get themselves in a position of authority over you and keep you under tight control until they break you. (Aside: this technique reminds me of my first husband when he was after an apology.)

This strategy may seem justified when dealing with violent scum, but if the cops don't have real evidence they are only guessing about who is scum. Or they feel pressured to wrap up a high-profile case and decide it's worth it to cut a few corners ethically.

Although not necessary, frequently they feed you the details needed to make the confession convincing. (I believe this should be considered evidence tampering.)

FYI: Because of the problems that can happen when witnesses are fed information, there is a specific protocol designed for the questioning of young children.

So why should cops worry about the ethics behind these techniques when they are sure they are interrogating criminals who don't deserve any better?

1) Lying under these circumstances contributes to a belief that cops can't be trusted or that cops are abusive. It is certainly a contributing factor for why many rape victims decide not to file a police report.

2) The technique is effective when your goal is to hear what you want to hear, but your goal should be to hear the truth or details of the suspect's cover story that can be refuted with evidence --whether you like what you hear or not.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:00 AM   0 comments links to this post


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