Across American police officers routinely lie during interrogations in order to bully suspects into making damning admissions. The sordid goal is not to find the truth, but to find further evidence to guilt.
|Officer Pinocchio lies to suspects.|
For example, officers may lie about forensic evidence, asking why fingerprints match the suspect even when no fingerprint evidence exists.
Officers may indicate that a nonexistent eye witness identifies the defendant or that a co-defendant admits everything and implicates the defendant. This use of false information to ensnare defendants is perfectly legal in most of the United States, yet it is also known to be one of the causes for the high incidence of false confessions.
In many other countries lying to a suspect would be viewed as police misconduct. And when viewed in it’s entirety it’s not much different than the evidence used in Soviet show trials or what might be expected from totalitarian regimes bent on maintaining power.
In England, the birthplace of our common law, the government has restricted officers from using false information to lure confessions. The focus of British law enforcement investigations is to find the truth, not to merely obtain a confession. The British found that lying to defendants merely increased the chances of a false confession.
Instead of lying about facts or playing good cop/bad cop as American interrogators are prone to do, British interrogations seek to find out from the suspect what happened. As the suspect tells the story the officers look for any inconsistencies. If there are inconsistencies, then the interrogation moves forward in an effort to find truth rather than merely find more evidence to convict. Evidence in British criminal cases is gathered and deployed to find the truth of what occurred rather than basing an investigation upon preconceived notions of guilt.
It’s about more than a suspect or target of an investigation merely trying to avoid arrest and prosecution. As a defense attorney and former prosecutor in Tampa Bay, Florida I’ve witnessed many officers freely admit under oath to lying to suspects in an effort to snare a fast confession. One wonders why any juror or judge would believe anything any officer might say after make such a damning admission. Yet what a lying officer is really saying is he’s willing to lie to subvert the legal system. Any police officer willing to lie should find another job instead of bending the framework of truth in the criminal justice system.