Police Interrogation Tactics: Evidence from the Terric Jeffrey Case in Miami
The October 16th order suppressing Terric Jeffrey's confession to killing the infant son of his girl friend and room mate provided a glimpse into the craft status of police interrogation practices, at least in Miami. Police experts like Northwestern University Law Professor Fred Inbau, (1909-1998) long maintained that police interrogation and resulting confessions posed little danger as long as police were careful to avoid techniques likely to induce the innocent to confess. The misfeasance in Miami suggests that this craft tradition is in bad shape there. Judge Pineiro was clearly concerned about the possibility that Jeffrey had been induced to confess by the deceptive promise that he would be released in combination with familiar tactics of police interrogation, including those sanctioned by Inbau. To his dismay, police testimony at the suppression motion was not even consistent as the tactics that had secured the confession.
One tactic that comes right out of Inbau's famed case book on police interrogation methods, involves minimizing the moral or legal wrongness of the suspect's conduct. Here defense lawyer Liesbeth Boots of the Miami Public Defenders office asks Miami Police Department Detective Yves Fortune.
Q. But do you have, at the Police Department a technique on interrogation?Another Detective Olga Rome, testified that it was she who obtained Terric's confession, apparently through the force of her voice.
A. Yes, it does.
Q. And, you know about the tactics of the offering a suspect a face saving alternative?
Q. You know saying to the suspect you did this, but you were just defending yourself.
Q. Or you did this because you didn't mean to, it was an accident, Right?
Q. You know those techniques. Right?
Q. And that's what was used in this case. Right?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. The accident scenario techniques. Right?
A. Well, that's --- that is a tactic that was used, yes
Q. It wasn't Terric who first said this was an accident. Right?
A. Can you repeat?
Q. It wasn't Terric who first said this was an accident, the first person to say it was an accident was Officer Valdez, Right?
A. I can't really answer as to who first said it. I really don't know who first said it.
The Court: Any redirect or the recross, okay. Ma'am, I just have a couple of questions. Ms. Boots delineated a number of techniques to convince the defendant it's in his best interest to confess, like to present him with false evidence, good cop bad cop, isolation and you have moral justification an out. And at the end of those, you said I know of them but I never practiced, not my practice. What is your practice when conducting interrogations?Judge Piniero was also distrubed by the quality of Jeffrey's statement in the formal confession which was video taped by the police, the only 1/2 hour of an 11 or 12 hour interrogation so video taped.
The Witness: I just ask them to tell me the truth.
The Court: And.
The Witness: It works for me. Maybe it's the way I say it. Maybe it's my voice. I don't know.
The statement itself evinces various instances where the defendant seems to have been coached as to what he should say. Please, take note of the last few words of Detective Rome's questions which are often parroted back verbatim in the Defendant's responses. he often starts his answers with her very words. The coaching is so evident that Detective Rome is forced to profess that she doesn't want to put words in the defendant's responses.Inbau and others believed that a craft of policing, grounded in the determination to convict the guilty and protect the innocent, would ultimately prove a far better shield to civil liberty than judicial prophylactic rules like the famous warnings required by Miranda v. Arizona (1966). Unfortunately, that craft tradition appears to have been replaced by what the Supreme Court has long described as "the competive process of ferreting out crime."
Labels: Miscarriages of Justice