Colorado Sex Crime Attorney Blog

Why Would You Confess to Something You Didn’t Do? False Confessions in Denver

Posted by Kyle B. Sawyer | Dec 06, 2013 | 0 Comments

Don't confess to a crime you didn't commit in Colorado. Read more in our blog.
We often hear about false accusations for sex offenses such as Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence (DV). The laws which pertain to sex offenses can be easily manipulated – there doesn't have to be physical evidence to be charged with rape, and no actual violence has to occur in order to be convicted of DV in Denver, Adams and Jefferson County. People accuse each other of crimes all of the time. False accusations are part of our culture. Did you know that false confessions are also common? The general public tends to scoff at this idea – why would you confess to something you didn't do? The answer lies in the technique used by police in Castle Rock, Aurora and Highlands Ranch. They use an interrogation procedure called “Reid's Technique” which is both outdated, and proven to lead to false confessions.

What is Reid's Technique?

Reid's Technique is used by law enforcement agencies all over the United States and has been since 1950. This interrogation technique began by a detective named John Reid who was renowned for getting confessions in the 1950's.  John Reid made his name with one of his early cases. A man was convicted of the brutal murder of his wife and sentenced to life in prison. He spent 13 years in prison before his guilt was questioned, and finally – 56 years after the death of his wife – the man was exonerated. John Reid was the detective who got the confession which sent him to prison.

[pullquote align=”center” textalign=”center” width=”70%”]A man was falsely convicted of murder and spent years in prison: Reid was the detective that got the false confession.[/pullquote]

– The Technique

Reid's technique was based the belief at the time that you could read whether or not someone was lying based on their anxiety level. You could gauge their level of anxiety based on their body language, such as the crossing of arms or the tapping of feet. Police also looked for anxiety while people talked, with cues like tripping over their words. These methods for determining guilt simply aren't legitimate, and have been proven wrong after further research. We all know people who can look you in the eye and tell a blatant lie with nary a twitch and a calm demeanor. And being nervous doesn't necessarily mean you are guilty of a crime in Douglas, Arapahoe and Larimer County. Who wouldn't be nervous after being hauled into a police station and interrogated?

 – Behavioral Analysis Interview

The first step in the process is the behavioral analysis interview. This interview is much like a lie detector test. The detective asks the person in custody a series of questions – some are neutral, and some are loaded.

– Interrogation

Then the police officer leaves the room, takes notes, decides on which points the person is lying, and then goes back into the room to make a serious accusation which lets the person know the authorities believe they are guilty of the crime.

– Lessening the Moral Impact

After a few minutes of interrogation (where the officer illustrates the horrible consequences to the alleged crime), the officer then introduces another element to the process – empathy. It is important to remember that police officers are trying to get a conviction. They aren't trying to find the truth. They get pats on the back and promotions from getting confessions and convictions. They employ any means necessary in order to do this. Often, this includes empathizing with the accused by letting them know they too could lose their temper and commit a crime. By doing this, the officer is giving the accused a way out by minimizing the evil of the crime. The accused is given a chance to save face and end the interrogation.

Why People Give False Confessions[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”center” width=”20%”]Corpus delicti protected people who gave false confessions. In Colorado, this rule no longer exists.[/pullquote]

Did you know that during the Lindbergh kidnapping investigation, over 200 people confessed to the crime? Often, this is because they are mentally unstable. But, another reason is this: People have faith in our justice system. They think if they confess the evidence will exonerate them later. What they don't understand, is a confession trumps everything in court. This is especially true following a recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling earlier this year which abandoned the decades-old corpus delicti rule. Corpus delicti is a Latin term which translates to the “body of the crime.” In essence, this law required that evidence (not just a confession) was required to prove that a crime actually happened. This law protected people who gave false confessions by requiring evidence the crime actually occurred must also be present. With the removal of corpus delicti, the Colorado Supreme Court decided a confession alone (if it could be proven trustworthy by meeting the Trustworthiness Standard) was enough for the conviction of a person – even if there was no evidence.

Why You Need an Experienced Criminal Lawyer

People give false confessions because they're scared or under police pressure. They want the interrogation to stop. So they confess to a crime they didn't actually commit, believing the evidence will prove their innocence in the end. This is no longer the case in Colorado. If you have been charged with a crime after a false confession, it is vital that you work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight for your innocence and gather evidence to exonerate you. Your future is at stake – don't put it in the hands of an overworked public defender or inexperienced attorney.

Request a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Denver, Lincoln, or Boulder County, be smart, exercise your right to remain silent, and contact an experience criminal defense attorney at the O'Malley Law Office for a free consultation at 303-830-0880, or submit the “Get Help Now” form. Together, we can protect your future.

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About the Author

Kyle B. Sawyer

I have a passion for defending others in criminal cases. I am able to empathize with my clients and understand their emotions and fears. I have a unique perspective on the criminal justice system and I understand what it feels like to be wrongly accused of a crime.


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