For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 2 - 7

and victims who are vulnerable. For victims, police
have developed specialized interviewing approaches.
However, when it comes to the interrogations of
suspects, one size still fits all.
Coercive interrogation tactics can result in two types
of false confessions. One is the coerced false confession
where the subject knows the confession is false. The
second is even more counterintuitive for most people,
the internalized false confession. This is when the
subject becomes convinced, usually temporarily, that
they must have committed the crime, even if they
have no memory of doing so. This can occur when the
subject is faced with an authority figure telling them
there is no doubt they are guilty and presenting them
with overwhelming (and false) evidence of that guilt.
The subject begins to mistrust their memory and (as is
sometimes suggested by the investigator) attributes
it to some sort of blackout. This occurred during the
Marty Tankleff interrogation.
In 1988, Marty was a seventeen-year-old high
school senior when he woke to find his mother
brutally murdered and his father severely beaten
but unconscious (he later died without regaining
consciousness). The investigators focused in on Marty
as their suspect because he had blood on his hands,
though he had attempted to render first aid to his
father. During his interrogation, the investigators lied
to Marty about the " scientific " evidence that proved as
" false " his account of his activities the evening before
the murders. They then concocted a ruse, where they
staged a fake call from the hospital. The investigators
told Marty that his father had briefly regained
consciousness and identified Marty as his attacker. At
that point, Marty said that his father would never lie,
and that perhaps he had blacked out and attacked his
father and mother. Marty went on to provide a possible,
though inaccurate, narrative of how it happened. He
spent 20 years in prison before he was exonerated.7
Hold-back Information
Voluntary confessions occur when the subject,
minus any persuasion by investigators, just sits down
and spills his guts. Anecdotally, voluntary confessions
appear to have been much more common prior to
the practice of requiring investigators to audio or
videotape their interactions with a suspect in their
entirety. Interestingly, Reid and Associates now teaches
that voluntary confessions should undergo the most
scrutiny.8
The reality is that even the most coercive and improper
interrogation can still lead to a reliable confession.
Investigators and prosecutors are confident they can
tell a good confession from a bad one. This is because
they create what they call " hold-back " information.
These are details about the crime that are kept secret
from all except the inner investigative circle-details
that, as investigators and prosecutors love to say, " only
the true perpetrator would know. " If the confession
contains those details, then it must be good. However,
confirmed false confessions do contain such details.
One example is another Philadelphia case involving
the same detectives who obtained Ogrod's false
confession. During his interrogation, Willie Veasy
confessed to participating, along with others, in a 1992
street robbery of a drug dealer that led to the shooting
death of a bystander. Willie provided accurate details,
including the motive, how they arrived on the scene,
the initial confrontation and robbery of the drug
dealer, and how and where the two other subjects
nearby were shot. Despite many inaccuracies within
the confession, these details, along with what was later
determined to be a faulty eyewitness ID, were enough
to overcome a strong alibi defense. After a review of
the case by the Philadelphia Conviction Integrity Unit,
Willie's conviction was vacated in October 2019.
In the case of an innocent subject, once they become
convinced that confessing is their best option, they must
come up with the hold-back details to create a narrative
that conforms to the investigators' beliefs. Sometimes
they have some knowledge from outside sources when
the investigator's hold-back information was not
really held back. Besides the media, there is also the
neighborhood's " word on the street, " often generated
when investigators improperly disclose information
during their questioning of potential witnesses. But
more likely, that hold-back information comes from
the investigators themselves, leading to the third step
in obtaining a false confession: contamination.
Contamination
Contamination often occurs unknowingly, the result
of poor training and interviewing skills. One of the
most common forms is the leading question. Though
investigators are told they should avoid them, they
are often the most used form of questioning in an
interrogation.
Another cause of contamination is the investigator's
reaction to the subject's answer. If the subject provides
the " wrong " answer, the investigator expresses doubt
or accuses him of lying. The " right " answer generates
a positive response. In this way, the interrogation
resembles the child's game of 20 Questions. The
innocent subject, desperate to escape an inevitable
consequence, collects " clues " that they use to create
an acceptable story for the investigator.
Vol. 6, Issue 2 l For The Defense 7

For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 2

For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 2 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 2 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 2 - 3
For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 2 - 4
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For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 2 - 6
For the Defense - Vol. 6, Issue 2 - 7
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