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Considerations on criminal interrogations and confessions

Do you think it's possible for unfortunate -- read unfair and even unlawful -- things to happen during a criminal interrogation when, as noted in a recent article on that subject, a suspect is "vulnerable and unassisted by a lawyer?"

Of course, it is. Readers know that such can certainly be the case and a foreseeable outcome when select factors play into an interrogation proceeding.

We spotlight false criminal confessions in today's blog post, noting immediately that the repercussions befalling an individual who confesses to a crime that he or she simply did not commit can be extreme, indeed. In fact, it is no exaggeration at all to state that life-and-death considerations can attach -- and routinely do -- to falsely uttered statements.

Why would a criminal suspect ever knowingly engage in such personally harmful behavior? Doing so stands counter to fundamental human instincts promoting self-protection and preservation.

The above-cited article makes some strong and revealing comments in response to that question.

Mental incompetency can promote an irrational response, for example. So, too, can the atmosphere of an interrogation room, coupled with purposeful questioning strategies intended to intimidate, wear down, confuse and, over many hours of employment, simply overwhelm some suspects.

The aforementioned article references a case where the Reid interrogation process, a technique described as "psychologically powerful," was used by police to question a suspect with a reported IQ of about 70.

The results of that case were sadly unsurprising. After hours of persistent challenges and questions, the suspect confessed to raping and murdering his neighbor. And then, stunningly, he asked his examiners if he could leave the station to embark on a scheduled camping trip with his family. Tellingly, his confession lacked mention of any case facts that only the killer or police would have known.

Luckily, jurors weren't impressed with what had transpired. They acquitted the man at trial.

There is an admonitory aspect to any story regarding a confession episode gone wrong.

And that is this: Being vulnerable and unassisted by legal counsel when in police custody and being questioned is often not a good prescription for a suspect-friendly outcome.

If things seem stressful and frightening during police questioning, that is because they are. Having a proven criminal defense attorney on hand can help ensure a lawful interrogation and promote a suspect's constitutional rights.

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