Challenge The Interrogator With A Killer Cross Examination

The Reid Method works. The Reid Method is an interrogation technique developed by John Reid, a former polygraph examiner, who devised a system of interrogation that increases the likelihood that a suspect confesses. Unfortunately, like a fisherman using a tightly knitted net, the Reid Method obtains confessions of people who are innocent too.

How you might wonder? Because Reid is a form of extreme psychological manipulation. It increases the anxiety someone feels maintaining their innocence and gives the suspect relief from that anxiety by confessing. In a few hours, the Reid Technique turns people’s defense mechanism’s upside down and inside out.

Few lawyers have studied it. Few are comfortable cross examining an interrogator. I have studied confessions and interrogations and Reid. I have been hired by clients AND other lawyers to cross examine interrogators and cops.

Cornering the interrogator and exposing the technique and it’s our purpose is critical to effectively cross examine. Here are some examples:

Physical Space:

In a recent cross examination, I exposed the officer’s deliberate attempt to create an intimidating physical space for our client:

Q: you try to increase the anxiety associated with a denial and decrease the stress associated with an admission?

Q: One of the things that you do is you position yourself physically in the room?

Q: The room had no windows?

Q: It had a table against the wall?

Q: Four chairs?

Q: you directed to [the accused] to a chair?

Q: in the corner of the room?

Q: up against a wall?

Q: he didn’t choose to sit there?

Q: you directed him there?

Q: there was another chair that was on the other side of the table?

Q: yet you sat in chair closest to him?

Q: then you moved your chair to within 2 feet of him?

Q: cornering him physically?

Q: at one point, you were so close that you kicked his legs and feet?

When he tried to deny some of the details, I introduced still photographs of the proximity of the detective and our client to show how the detective positioned himself and then challenged him as to the reasons. Other than trying to make our client feel uncomfortable with someone violating his personal space, there was none. It was even better when the prosecutor objected to my standing too close to the witness, claiming that I was “badgering” him. The irony that I was doing nothing different than he did to our client was not lost on anyone. I followed it up with questions:

Q: you heard the objection?

Q: it makes it uncomfortable to have someone in your personal space like this?

Q: I’m no closer than you were to our client?

Q: In fact, here you have a judge and prosecutor to ensure that I don’t cross the line?

Q: there was no judge there during the interrogation, right?

I also compared the the room setting with the way that child witnesses are interviewed. There is a protocol for interviewing child witnesses. It includes putting them in a inviting room, not sitting too close to them, asking them direct questions, not asking them leading questions, not telling that they are lying or wrong and not trying to suggest that one answer is better than the other. The detective agreed that these were safeguards to protect against false accusations, i.e., from a witness just agreeing because of the pressure of the moment. I compared that with his setup of the interrogation of our client:

Q: you asked leading questions?

Q: you challenged him and told him that he was wrong?

Q: you challenged him and told him that he was not helping himself?

Q: you suggested what the truthful answers were?

Q: all things that you indicated could, in a child type witness, suggest an answer?

Q: all things that you indicated could pressure someone to agree just to relieve the pressure?

Again, the irony was not lost on those in the courtroom. The detective had done things that he knew in other circumstances could cause a false accusation. He did them without regard to whether they resulted in a false confession.

Given my training in the area of false confessions and interrogations, these are only a small fraction of the types of cross examination that one can do to lay the groundwork for undermining the reliability of a confession. There is much, much more. Stay tuned as I provide more details of the killer cross examination approach to undermining an interrogation and to challenging the interrogator.

Neil Rockind