Judge finds Reid method oppressive

In other news, scientist finds that the sun is really, really, hot and sports commentator opines that in order to win you have to score more than the opponent. Honestly, I wish the headline of this post, which is a version of the headline of this news story, was an Onion article. It’s not. Also, this is from Canada, so your mileage may vary.

The Reid method, for those who don’t know, is a classic police interrogation interview technique which is used to wrangle and coerce confessions from suspects. A simple Google search reveals much about the Reid technique, which you should peruse at your own leisure, preferably after you’re done reading this post. But since I know you’re lazy, here’s a link to the technique’s “Nine Steps“. You can see how coercive and insidious they are.

The Reid technique, despite its flaws and criticism about its tendency to produce false confessions, has been the standard method of conducting interviews across North America for near 20 years now. It’s routinely used – and defended – by law enforcement organizations. Courts have upheld the use of these coercive tactics time and again.

So leave it to a Canadian judge to unequivocally declare that this technique is improper and dangerous. In Regina v. Chapple [PDF], the Honorable M.C. Dinkle. The judge does a wonderful job of outlining the tactics employed by the police officers in this case:

Dinkel said Calgary police subjected Christa Lynn Chapple to an eight-hour interview and interrogation that “had all the appearances of a desperate investigative team that was bent on extracting a confession at any cost.”

Even though the accused asserted at least 24 times that she wanted to remain silent, Detective Karla Malsam-Dudar disregarded that right, continuing to prolong the interview with lengthy monologues, constant interruptions and persistent questioning.

The accused’s free will was overborne to the point where she told police what they wanted to hear, the judge concluded.

But more notable than the specific facts of this case was the overall condemnation of the technique itself, which the judge called “a guilt presumptive technique” designed to “extract confessions from the accused”. He further excoriates:

Innocence is not an option with the  Reid Technique. Those who defend the Reid Technique may suggest that the problem lies with  the interrogators who misuse the technique and not the technique itself. They may also say that  the technique is intended to be used only in circumstances where the police are sure of an  accused’s guilt. These factors are of little solace to me and of no assistance to those innocent  individuals who have given false confessions over the years at the hands of Reid Technique  interrogators.

The judge notes, with some disappointment, that even years after other judges first began to question the use of this technique, it is still widely in service today. False confessions were recorded in approximately 25% of the exonerations cataloged by the Innocence Project. The dangers of using such a coercive technique should be obvious to those whose stated goal is the pursuit of truth and justice, yet more often than not, it is used to achieve precisely the opposite result and serves as nothing more than confirmation of their bias and tunnel-vision. The goal isn’t the truth, it’s an arrest, a confession and a conviction, truth be damned.


H/T: Lisa Steele for the pointer and The Trial Warrior for providing a link to the opinion.

One thought on “Judge finds Reid method oppressive

  1. Darlene Leger

    I am the grandmother of the child involved. The court has chosen not to speak for him; so I must, as he is in fact the true victim in this case. Over two and a half years ago, at fifteen months-old, my grandson suffered a skull fracture in the home of the accused, which resulted in his near death due to severe brain bleeding, and an ensuing partial craniectomy that removed nearly half of his skull to save his life. His survival remained undetermined for weeks afterwards. The craniectomy also caused several other complications that resulted in several surgeries, many months in hospital, and severe lifelong disabilities – including partial blindness. His doctors at the Alberta Children’s Hospital later indicated that he had been shaken, which exacerbated the effects of the skull fracture.
    Only the accused, her two year-old son, and my grandson were present at the time of the incident. Both children were certainly too young to tell anyone what happened. At fifteen months, my grandson was barely walking, never mind speaking. The accused stated in two previous police interviews that although not present in the room with the children at the time of the incident, she believed her son had pushed my grandson, causing the skull fracture. This is quite a different version of events than those given in the final interview a year later.
    The police investigation was long and arduous, continuing for more than a year, and resulting in charges of aggravated assault being laid over a year ago against the accused, just before the final aforementioned interrogation and subsequent confession. It must also be stated that the toll exacted on my daughter, son-in-law, older grandson, and other family members over all this time has been nearly insurmountable.
    By completely discrediting the police involvement, focusing almost entirely on the accused, and disregarding the medical evidence which was deemed to be inconclusive, Judge Dinkle has set an alarming precedent in favour of those who claim to be unjustly treated ‘victims’ of the police, after being charged with harming the babies and young children in their care. Consistent denial of the charges, or requests to remain silent, could easily result in their exoneration, despite the fact that they might well be guilty as charged. They, and not the innocent children, will then be considered the victims. Their ‘sacred legal rights’ will become more important than the safety of the children who too often cannot speak for themselves. So where are the children’s sacred rights? Indeed, where is the justice?


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