The Reid Technique: Where False Confessions Live

One concept that is often utilized in the state of Michigan is the “Reid Technique” which is a method that been consistently proven to provide government actors with false confessions of an innocent defendant. Today, we will discuss the topic with in-depth analysis from legal experts in the field of criminal law. iStock_000000687101_Large-2-300x200

Looking at the subject from a global perspective, the “Reid Technique” is a method of questioning suspects in an attempt to try to assess their credibility. Developed by polygraph expert John Reid, the topic has evolved into the top method of interrogation by police across the country. While the technique seems to be employed regularly, the problems associated with “Reid” have started to come to the surface in the last 10 years.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan. Grabel has developed a reputation as the top criminal defense attorney in the state of Michigan and provided insight of the mechanism. Grabel stated, “When you study the “Reid Technique, we have to understand that many police agencies, especially in the state of Michigan, claim they do not use the process but they clearly do. It’s almost as if saying you are using “Reid” brings negative connotations but what is amazing is that “Reid” in and of itself is not creating tragic consequences, the horrific outcomes of the “Reid Technique” come from the police deviating from the concept. The clearest example of this was the false confession of Brendan Dassey.”

In studying the “Reid Technique”, we have a situation where there is a three-phase process. The technique starts with Fact Analysis, followed by the Behavior Analysis Interview which is then followed by the Reid Nine Steps of Interrogation.

Matthew McManus is the founder of Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan. McManus stated, “The Reid Technique is the sole reason that Brendan Dassey is behind bars and our firm is dealing with the same issue in the Brian Ali case. It’s funny that the so-called experts call it the “Nine Steps of Interrogation”, they really should call it the Nice Steps of getting a false confession.”

The nine step process involved in the “Reid Technique” consist of the following:

1. Direct confrontation. Advise the suspect that the evidence has led the police to the individual as a suspect.

2. Offer the person an early opportunity to explain why the offense took place.

3. Try to shift the blame away from the suspect to some other person or set of circumstances that prompted the suspect to commit the crime. That is, develop themes containing reasons that will psychologically justify or excuse the crime. Themes may be developed or changed to find one to which the accused is most responsive.

4. Try to minimize the frequency of suspect denials.

5. At this point, the accused will often give a reason why he or she did not or could not commit the crime.

6. Try to use this to move towards the acknowledgement of what they did.

7. Reinforce sincerity to ensure that the suspect is receptive.
The suspect will become quieter and listen. Move the theme discussion towards offering alternatives. If the suspect cries at this point, infer guilt.
Pose the “alternative question”, giving two choices for what happened; one more socially acceptable than the other. The suspect is expected to choose the easier option but whichever alternative the suspect chooses, guilt is admitted. As stated above, there is always a third option which is to maintain that they did not commit the crime.

8. Lead the suspect to repeat the admission of guilt in front of witnesses and develop corroborating information to establish the validity of the confession.

9. Document the suspect’s admission or confession and have him or her prepare a recorded statement (audio, video or written).

Peter Samouris is a top criminal defense lawyer in the state of Michigan and runs “The Samouris Law Firm” in Lansing, Michigan. When asked about the “Reid Technique” Samouris stated, “My main concern about the so-called “Reid Technique”, is the fact that it is universally applied by law enforcement officers. I wish it was used more judiciously. Not every case warrants the technique. That’s why I always my clients against police exams.”

When we see the pitfalls of the “Reid Technique”, we are seeing a reason why a lot of innocent people are ending up behind bars. When people ask why would anybody confess to something they didn’t do, the answer is they become compromised. Sometimes with criminal law, an ocean of lies can drown the truth.

William Amadeo is a partner at Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate at Grabel and Associates. In addition to his legal duties, he is the owner of BAT Tutoring and a staff writer for “The Chronicle News” and other websites. He can be reached at Williamamadeo@Grabellaw.com.