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“The interrogation is critical to any criminal investigation. A suspect might lie or tell the truth, they may be innocent or guilty. Interrogation is a high stakes game. Too much pressure and an innocent person might confess to a crime they didn’t commit.” National Geographic’s

“Nothing but the Truth” This is a concept held by many to be the ultimate goal of interrogation. But, from research, deception is a common technique used by interrogators against the accused. In the Oxford Dictionary deceive is defined as deliberately causing someone to believe something that is not true, especially for personal gain. It is said to bring out the truth by using a lie, but is it really ethical?

There are three types of false confessions:
Voluntary false confessions are made without external pressure.
Compliant false confessions happen when a suspect confesses to the crime just to get out of the interrogative situation.
Internalised false confessions occur when the accused starts believing that they have committed the crime.

In a criminal case documented by National Geographic’s, in 1988 a 12 year old girl was killed and police believed her 14 year old brother had killed her. The detective told him if he did not confess he would be tried as an adult and if he confessed he would get help. This was a lie. The detectives in a 10 hour interrogation finally led to him confessing to the crime. Luckily, DNA later revealed that he was innocent.

There is a misconception amongst arrogant interrogators that they would know a false confession when they hear one. However, it is virtually impossible to tell the difference because they seem exactly the same.

The more vulnerable of our society are children and mentally unstable people namely because they are more subject to influence. This does not mean ordinary and intelligent people are not susceptible to a false confession.

False confessions occur mainly because police are allowed to lie about evidence. The suspects may have denied their involvement for as long as mentally possible only to capitulate to the pressures of the officers.

The officers may insist, “You have denied your involvement and yet we have your fingerprint on the murder weapon.”
The suspect becomes confused, disorientated and question their innocence. Not only does this lead to a false signed confession but also the suspect believes and concludes that they have committed the crime.
Just as is in Heresy in a quotation from S.J. Parris, I quote “But they argued as lawyers do, they twisted every answer I gave until it sounded like the opposite meaning, and I became so confused and afraid I found myself agreeing to statements that I knew were not true.”

The topic of “Nothing but the Truth” is so deeply entwined in deception, duress and other interrogation techniques. The discussion around the truth raises questions about the ethics of our investigators and us as a society. It seems to be extraction of the “truth” at any cost.

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