The Sciences

Lie to Me, Lie to You: Educating the Public about Police Deception

The IntersectionBy The IntersectionMar 9, 2011 10:22 PM


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This is a guest post composed at the NSF Science: Becoming the Messenger Workshop at University of Nebraska-Lincoln by Krista Forrest, Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Kearney. Seventeen year old Marty Tankleff awoke to find his mother dead and his father dying. He called the police as a good son would. When the police arrived they noticed that Marty was behaving strangely. As a result, he immediately became a suspect. After several hours of interrogation, Marty confessed to the crime because of police deception. The officer told Marty his father had come out of the coma and said that he, Marty had committed the crime. Then his father died. The truth- his father never woke up and Marty served 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit (read more about Marty's case here). False confessions exist and more frequently than you think. Low intelligence, mental illness and torture are not the only factors contributing to false confessions. According to the Innocence Project, 25% of DNA exonerated individuals who were wrongly convicted made a false confession or admission. Under the right conditions even you could falsely confess to a crime. As in the case of Marty Tankleff police are allowed to lie about the presence of eyewitness, snitch, and scientific evidence. Those same officers can give you a polygraph and tell you the outcome is failure, even when you didn’t. Judges, prosecutors, and police officers don’t seem to be concerned about deceptive techniques, citing legal cases as supportive of the technique. Yet more expert witnesses are being allowed to educate juries on the subtle, deceptive and coercive nature of police interrogation. According to research, lying about evidence increases a suspect’s likelihood of falsely confessing. This effect is even stronger for the innocent, who may confess with the expectation that once this evidence is tested, they will be freed. Unfortunately they don’t know that a confession is all the court needs. Protect yourself from deceptive police interrogation. Always get a lawyer.

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