Court: Don't Lie to Suspects (Too Much)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Police officers wait outside the courtoom. (Cindy Rodriguez/WNYC)

Steven Drizin, clinical law professor at Northwestern University School of Law and legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, dicusses The New York State Court of Appeals ruling that police lied too much to a murder suspect. Drizin explains the case and the line between an acceptable lie in an interrogation and a lie that forces a false confession. Plus: a bill for remedies for forced confessions.



Steven Drizin

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Comments [20]

All right; you wore me down; I'll go watch the entire movie[I saw clips and watched a news segment about it, quite a while ago] and perhaps agree with you. I never said they're guilty simply for being in the vicinity, but yes I believe the confession, because it is hard for me to conceive that the police would even try to trick confessions out of them if they did not have sold reasons for believing them guilty. Regarding the dna of Reyes, well if that is true then of course he's the guy however it does not negate a possibility that the 5 protected or covered for him while he attacked the woman, even if they just came upon the scene. It is also possible that Reyes confessed because political activists convinced him that it was the politically correct, noble thing to do to help 5 young guys get off. Perhaps he admitted to it when it was clear to him he would not be tried by a court .Though his name would be made public by the activists. But there's no denying the dna-if that is accurate what you're saying. Why was he not charged, is the logical question? And, again, perhaps he came upon the unconscious woman after she was knocked out by these 5 guys and then raped her.Yes it's all speculation but I find it had to believe the police would be so clue less, and so unethical to go to the length deliberately coaxing 5 young guys into confessing if they did not believe they were guilty. That incident outraged the city;it does not follow that would want to arrest someone,just to have an arrest and not that they really wanted to catch the right person[s] to stop this notorious crime from happening again in Central Park.But O.K.,I could be wrong, I admit my belief is simply a belief and prejudiced in favor of the police, for the reason I gave. I think it's reasonable but perhaps if I see the film I'll have more real data to change my mind and agree with you. Looks like you won Fuva; happy now?

Feb. 22 2014 08:58 PM
fuva from harlemworld

roseellen, no way. The invalidity of the confessions is one thing. But, in the previous post, I clearly enumerate the SPECIFIC EVIDENCE that informs my belief in their innocence. You have provided NO such evidence. We are NOT "six of one and half a dozen of the other"; we are APPLES AND ORANGES. (In more ways than one, I'm sure.)

Someone is guilty of a crime because they were "in the vicinity"? A group of boys "beat" and "hold down" a woman while someone else whom they don't know rapes her? For what? And they do this and leave no traces of DNA? No forensic evidence whatsoever? While they were pointing the finger at the others, why did none mention Reyes -- whose DNA was found all over that woman and who provided a detailed account of the attack, consistent with the evidence the D.A. had, which was inconsistent with the boys' account. The D.A. ABSOLUTELY had the option to retry them after Reyes' confession. Don't you know that convicts can be retried after new evidence surfaces. The city chose not to in this huge, consequential case. Wonder why?...Again, I could go on. But I fear I'm wasting my time with you.

You are content to believe that 5 teenagers committed a heinous crime, and in their incarceration in a hellhole, and yet you CANNOT offer any conclusive evidence why. Again, this is pathetic, scary. (Not to mention that, if they were so guilty seems to me that the people accused of railroading them would be screaming it from the rafters..)

I wish you illumination.

Feb. 22 2014 04:40 PM

I don't always believe the police but I do believe the 5 were at the vicinity of the crime, and that their confessions were true and that in this case the police surmised correctly that they were guilty. It's been years since we had the trial. The over kill to stress that the dna found on the woman was not theirs is indicative of a straw man ,as is the pointing blame at an already convicted rapist. Those are red flags and until we get another trial for the actual crime ,I find no fault with the first trial, Though I don't have all that was presented at trial at my fingertips, or all the jury's given reasons why they convicted. I'm not saying its not possible that they're innocent but I do not believe they are as what was presented at trial-their confessions made after being interrogated by astute police officers[an admitted judgment on my part],makes it reasonable to believe they did it. I'll give you; that I don't have the trial evidence and all I know is they confessed and that they were in the area, and that they have been rowdy towards other innocent people before, What followed after their conviction is the same old stuff that always follows a conviction; saying they were coerced to confessing and that the culprit is someone conveniently already in jail for rape. No worry about slander libel suit with that one! Yes they could be innocent but until you try someone else, I'll stick to my belief they're guilty.[though the actual rapist may have evaded being caught]. Why do you believe they're
innocent? Because they got the conviction overturned? So it's six of one and half a dozen of the other.I believe the first judgment, you believe the second. You probably want to say if I believe the first it must be racism. I'm comfortable enough to believe the conviction was accurate[too many red flags in the post conviction appeals and their confession] and I reject the idea that I must be racially biased to still believe they're guilty. I don't think police officers would try to get confessions from young kids if they did not discern; have good reason, to believe they were guilty. They're not Donald Trump. No reparations?Oh-but aren't they trying to get them reparations and or apologies?That's practically a cottage industry now[journalists, filmmakers, activists ].The 5 are not going to admit to it now and neither will those who have a stake in their maintaining the 5 are innocent or they would be exposed as having been gulled or having deceived the public.

Feb. 22 2014 03:37 PM
fuva from harlemworld

And, roseellen, they have absolutely NOT gotten 'reparations'. Clearly, your perspective here is informed by all kinds of ignorance.

Feb. 22 2014 11:11 AM
fuva from harlemworld

roseellen, stop the madness. I have presented the EVIDENCE for my belief. You have not. Or is your 'evidence' the 'confessions'?...Or are you saying that because a cop and jury believe something, then it is true?

Feb. 22 2014 11:08 AM

Fuva; you have your belief that what was presented at the appeal was true. I believe what was presented at trial was true. You have your belief,I have mine. It's about who do you believe. You have your reasons for believing the appeal "evidence' ,I have reasons for believing the trial "evidence"[I believe the confessions were true because I believe that the interrogators were astute enough to discern that these guys were involved with the attack and smart enough to trick them into admitting it]. I will say that I believe that today they are indeed reformed upstanding adults. Though because of all the vested interested parties behind them that succeeded in getting them aquitted and even got them reparations, right?, they will never admit their guilt. They do not want to damage the scores of people, groups, activists etc. that they owe their freedom and acquittal[sp?] to.

Feb. 22 2014 09:31 AM
fuva from harlemworld

rosellen, about the CP5, you have provided your beliefs. You have provided NO EVIDENCE, as requested. In addition, you are apparently willing to have such beliefs without evidence. This is pathetic. I'm through.

Feb. 22 2014 08:18 AM

I believe what was presented at trial was accurate. I even remember reading in the Daily News that the DNA found on the woman did not match any of the suspects. That sentence was the last line of the article in that paper. I remember thinking-they will come back in a few years and say that the convicted criminals are innocent based on that fact. Which of course does not mean they were innocent. And that's that's exactly what happened. But I believe there was enough evidence to convict presented at the trial including their confessions was accurate .I believe their confessions were true and that though none may have actually raped her, they were part of a gang that grabbed her, beat her, ,held her down, were lookouts, and allowed someone to rape her. I just don't buy the revisionist narrative that what was presented at trial including their confessions was made up. I recognize that the conviction over turned but believe that the film that exists today is a slanted film. Go to the trial transcripts and the jury's reason for their conviction, to see that the subsequent reversal and the slanted film presentation are one side of that story. I know the revisionist reversion is the accepted version politically and by the media but I believe the original version.

Feb. 21 2014 06:11 PM
Lev from Brooklyn

Deception is the tactic not just of police alone; insofar as federal judiciary goes, it is a standard operating procedure, protected by the system: federal judges gave themselves the right to act "maliciously and corruptly" (Pierson v. Ray); to substitute parties factual and legal argument with judges' own imaginings which have nothing whatsoever to do with reality (Tsitrin v. Lettow), and to substitute parties' argument with its exact opposite (Tsitrin v. Vitaliano).

Police tactics are mere children's games when compared to those of the federal judiciary. I wonder if Mr. Lehrer would be willing to do a segment of those; but do check the site of the Coalition Against Judicial Fraud,

Feb. 21 2014 05:03 PM
fuva from harlemworld

roseellen, you really must explain what you mean by "did take part in the attack." Explain what you mean AND the evidence. Or the statement AND that you would have the temerity to make it are unconscionable.

Feb. 21 2014 04:22 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Wow. roseellen. Are you actually saying that the CP5 participated in the rape of that woman? My goodness.
I would ask you to provide evidence for such an incredibly serious accusation but, given this exchange, if you had it you surely would have offered it. And so, you are accusing 5 CHILDREN OF RAPING AND ATTEMPTING TO MURDER SOMEONE WITHOUT ANY CONVINCING EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER and thereby sanctioning THEIR LONGTERM WRONGFUL INCARCERATION IN THE HELLHOLE PRISON SYSTEM. (There was DNA on the victim and it MATCHED NONE OF THE CP5,it DID MATCH REYES, there was one set of footprints, they gave incorrect descriptions of the crime...I could go on...) And I'm sure you're doing this without batting an eye...
Again, what is scary here is that this kind of race-crazy (and, yes, it's racial however you try to parse it. And you will try to parse it.) delusion prevails. We have so much healing to do.

Feb. 21 2014 04:18 PM

Fuva; they did take part in the attack [cp5].Perhaps none of them actually raped her but it is part of revisionist history to say they were innocent. The police got the scared hapless young suspects to point the finger at each other by cajoling each suspect into believing he himself was not in big trouble because he himself was less culpable then the others. That the accepted revisionist narrative is now that an already convicted[how convenient] rapist did it, is what often happens in these politically charged cases where the media /political activists have a narrative that exonerates the often minority person found guilty. There's an already convicted guy,who takes the rap and the case is never retried so it's all just a media narrative become accepted truth. When dealing with minors they should have a lawyer present for any interrogation;I'll give you that.

Feb. 21 2014 03:48 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Have it wrong and making no sense, roseellen: The CP5, "young and hapless" were ABSOLUTELY detained for long periods of time without legal advice, lied to and thereby coerced into PLACING THEMSELVES AT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME, where they never were. Yes, these scared kids then implicated each other in the actual physical crime, but AFTER they had already implicated themselves ...And, again, you are clearly clueless about the psychosocial realities that would have ADULTS falsely confess. What's scary is how prevalent your unawareness is and how often it therefore inhabits jury seats.

Feb. 21 2014 03:13 PM

Joe; if dishonesty gets a murderer or rapist to confess to his/her being a murderer or rapist, then yes ,I condone it. The lesser of two evils[lying, or risk he not confess and is not convicted and can victimize others] which is sometimes the only choices we have in life, warrant taking the lesser. Stay on your high horse if it makes you feel good but if YOU'RE honest you would concede the reality of sometimes having to choose a lesser evil. You're either a fool or dishonest yourself or are complicit with might makes right murderers and rapists if you disagree with THAT fact of life.Convicting a murderer /rapist by the use of outsmarting his /her mental capacities, is a GOOD thing.
The term "cheating" does not apply.Committing a crime is not a game. That you call tricking the criminal into confessing he's a murderer, rapist, etc.,"cheating", shows that for you it is a game. You think just like the criminal. No wonder you want to see an equal degree of smarts to match the criminals degree of physical power over his defenseless victim. How dare you outsmart the physically powerful criminal? That's not fair play! No it's not, because it's not play! It IS good police work to get the suspect to ADMIT he did it by saying things that make him believe you KNOW he did it.

Feb. 21 2014 03:09 PM
Joe from nearby

@roseellen- Your comment show you're a dishonest person who condones dishonesty and cheating.

Feb. 21 2014 11:58 AM

The only lies that should be outlawed are those that threaten the defendant and his/her loved ones. Telling a suspect they found his/her prints is a good police tactic. So too telling the suspect that a cohort has testified against you. Lying that you'll go home or not be charged ,if you say x, should also be outlawed. Other then that lying can be using good psychology. And the central park 5 did NOT confess about themselves; rather they pointed the finger at each other. That is the media's false narrative about that case. This notion of; how dare you trick a suspect to admitting he committed a crime, how dare you outwit the criminal adopts the might makes right ethos of a criminal. How dare you use your mind against the one who possesses the physical power to harm his victim but lacks mental power to outsmart his interrogators! Of course all interrogations should be taped. I don't deny there are false confessions but I believe they happen rarely, in cases where the suspect is young and hapless. Not at the rate the guest want to say it happens. That lying will be permissible sometimes but not always points to political correctness at work. If the suspect is from a protected minority or where a media narrative prevails on his/her behalf, lies will not be allowed. If the suspect is not part of a protected group or is already being condemned in the press, or is not a cause celebre, it will be allowed. UN-equal under the law-is what this legally ambiguous court decision is legitimizing. A nation of Laws? More and more this concept of equality under the law is being eroded. This; you can lie sometimes and its not specified when or how, is such an erosion of the concept of equality under the law, of law itself.

Feb. 21 2014 10:47 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Brian's question about why people falsely confess, and hjs11211's comment, reflect an unawareness of certain psychosocial realities, and this unawareness sorely needs address.

The fact that the innocent children imprisoned for the horrendous crime against that woman in Central Park have STILL not been compensated for what they went through is evidence of the ongoing institutionalized Jim Crowism. It is SIMPLY the Scottsboro Boys once again.

Feb. 21 2014 10:21 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Brian you implied that if you are a Liberal you stand for justice where is if you are conservative you stand squarely for injustice and police corrupt and practices.
The show also, tells me that American judicial system is rotten to the core.

Feb. 21 2014 10:18 AM
sp from nyc

Plea bargaining should be illegal, and prosecutors using it should be charged with bribery and suborning perjury. If you or I offered money in exchange for a lie under oath in court, we would be prosecuted for suborning perjury. but if the prosecutor offers years off a prison sentence (or no jail time at all), which is far more valuable than any cash inducement, for someone to confess to something they did not do, backed by threats of long sentences, they are using their "discretionary power." This isn't justice, it's blackmail.

Feb. 21 2014 10:15 AM

Just remember to remain silent! I'm not sure what's so hard to understand!?

Feb. 21 2014 09:52 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.