Tag Archive for: confession

Those of you who’ve visited this site over the years know that cordite is a big NO and that cops are NOT required to spout off Miranda rights the second they apply handcuffs to the wrists of an offender. You do remember those two points, right?

For the newcomers, here’s a quick refresher on the reading of rights (click the above link to read more about cordite).


When is a police officer required to advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings? Well, I’ll give you a hint, it’s not like we see on television. Surprised?

Television shows officers spouting off Miranda warnings the second they have someone in cuffs. Not so. I’ve been in plenty of situations where I chased a suspect, caught him, he resisted, and then we wound up on the ground fighting like street thugs while I struggled to apply handcuffs to his wrists. I can promise you I had a few words to say after I pulled the scuz to his feet, but Miranda wasn’t one of them. Too many letters. At that point, I could only think of words of the four letter variety.

Custodial Interrogation

Two elements must be in place for the Miranda warning requirement to apply.

  • The suspect must be in custody
  • They must be undergoing interrogation (advisement of Miranda comes prior to questioning, while in custody).

A suspect is in police custody if he’s under formal arrest or if his freedom has been restrained or denied to the extent that he feels as if he’s no longer free to leave.

This fellow is not free to leave.


Interrogation is not only asking questions, but any actions, words, or gestures used by an officer to elicit an incriminating response can be considered as an interrogation.

If these two elements are in place officers must advise a suspect of the Miranda warnings prior to questioning. If not, statements made by the suspect may not be used in court. The absence of Miranda doesn’t mean the arrest isn’t good, just that his statements aren’t admissible.

Officers are not required to advise anyone of their rights if they’re not going to ask questions. Defendants are convicted all the time without ever hearing that sing-songy police officer’s poem,  “You have the right to …”













Deception and Lying: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

We all know that it’s illegal to lie to the FBI. And we all know what can happen if you do. That’s right, you go to federal prison where you’ll join the elite Stewart/Huffman/Loughlin Club.

Making false statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001) is a federal crime laid out in Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code. This is the law that prohibits knowingly and willfully telling fibs to the cops.

On the other hand, it’s perfectly fine for the cops to lie to you. Seems fair.

Police detectives/officers are legally permitted to “stretch the truth  lie in order to solve criminal cases. The case law that permits the officers to fib to suspects is Frazier v. Cupp (1969).

In Frazier, the police falsely told murder suspect Martin E. Frazier that his cousin, Jerry Lee Rawls, had implicated him in the crime (the two were together at the time). He then confessed but later claimed that police shouldn’t be permitted to lie because otherwise he wouldn’t have admitted guilt. The Supreme Court agreed with the police and they’ve been legally fibbing to crooks every day since.

Police investigators use a variety of deceptive tactics, such as:

  • Displaying false sympathy and/or claiming to understand the situation
  • Minimizing the seriousness of the offense and the offenders role
  • Falsely stating there is hard evidence to support a conviction
  • Confession from an accomplice that implicates the suspect
  • And the ever popular, “We have an eyewitness who saw you there.” 

The Florida Second District Court of Appeal went a bit further by limiting just how far the  police can go when stretching the truth. In Florida v. Cayward (1989), the court ruled that it’s perfectly okay to tell fibs (orally) but they may not fabricate evidence in order to deceive suspects. Cayward claimed the police fabricated laboratory reports as a trick to induce a confession. It worked and he spilled the beans. However, the court said police crossed the line and ruled in Cayward’s favor and suppressed the confession.

To sum up – Don’t lie to the cops, and …

Registration is OPEN!



Singer/drummer Phil Collins once crooned about deception in his haunting song In the Air Tonight, and it’s his words along with recent headlines that are the inspiration for today’s article. Or are they? Am I telling the truth, or am I spewing forth a pack of lies?

“I’ve seen your face before my friend
But I don’t know if you know who I am
Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin,
I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies.”

~ Phil Collins

For starters, Collins certainly wasn’t yodeling about a grouping of people lounging about while in a horizontal position. His song is about someone who told a bunch of fibs—tall tales offered with an intent to deceive others. You know, like writers of fiction do so well each and every day of their lives. They’re all, to put it as nicely as I can … professional and highly effective liars.

Savvy detectives, though, as part of their finely-honed investigative skills, must have the ability to distinguish when a suspect is forthcoming with answers to basic subtly-asked questions straight from the “Detective 101 Handy-Dandy Handbook,” such as, “Did you do IT, you lowlife, dirty, rotten thief?” Or, the more advanced (for seasoned investigators only) difficult to answer, “You’d best confess because you know you don’t want to be executed by extremely painful electrocution while strapped down tightly to the electric chair … do you?”

The Dreaded Polygraph

Before we move on, you guys are aware that polygraph tests aren’t 100% reliable, right? And you know that a polygraph devices measure a person’s heart rate, their breathing, and their galvanic skin response, yes?

Oh, you’re not sure about the last one. Okay …

What the Heck is Galvanic Skin Response?

GSR (no, not gun shot residue) are the changes in sweat gland activity and their conductivity that reflect the intensity of our emotional arousal. In simpler terms, how much or how little our skin’s conductance values change during different types of arousal. It’s a sort of sweat detector, kind of.

For example, an investigator asks you, “Do you own a copy of Lee Lofland’s book about police procedure?”

You answer yes and the palms of your hands and soles of your feet remain as dry as a California summer day, and this is because you do indeed own a copy and it sits atop your desk each and every day.

Then the detective asks, “Have you ever used the book as a door stop or placed it on a dirty bathroom floor as you tended to your personal needs during the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy?”

You respond with a resounding “No!” and suddenly your pores open up widely, drenching the entire room and both you and the detective with a torrential flood of perspiration.

You’ve just been caught telling a massive fib which, in turn, leads Nancy Drew to the Powder Room where she promptly photographs the evidence, an image you’ll soon see in court.






The image above is an actual photo taken by someone at the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy. It was not a staged shot. I’m extremely pleased that my book goes everywhere with this unidentified woman. Never leave home without it, folks. You never know when you may need a fact, or something to stand on to prevent your feet from contacting the floor in a public restroom. The book’s usefulness is unlimited!

Anyway, that’s the GSR part of the exam. Next, what is it about filling our lungs with good old oxygen combined with the bass drum-pounding of our cheating hearts that tells police we’re lying our butts off with every word that spills from our tongues and lips?

Basically, the theory is that if you’re lying your heart rate and rate of respirations accelerate whenever you say something that isn’t true.

But what all this boils down to is that, at best, a polygraph exam is not a lot more accurate than attempting to learn your fate by dropping a quarter in the fortune telling machine on the boardwalk at Ocean City, Maryland.





Thrasher’s Fries – Ocean City, Md. Boardwalk

The upside is that you could enjoy an order of Thrasher’s delicious french fries while reading the babble pre-printed on the response card spewed forth by the machine’s mechanical soothsayer.

Instead of actually detecting lies, though, one of the major pluses with the use of polygraph exams is garnering confessions. It’s a device of trickery. A detective’s magic hat. It’s a fantastic interrogation tool as long as the person in the “hot seat” believes in it and truly thinks it can detect all lies told..

Imagine, for a moment, sitting in a quiet room where a bespectacled, slightly balding and portly fellow who’s wearing a black suit fiddles with papers. You’re not permitted to see what’s on them before he places the sheets inside a folder, a folder with your name written boldly across the tab, in bright red ink.

The man’s manner of speech is a bit soft and hypnotic but also sort of nerve-grating condescending, as if he already knows it was you, the six-year-old heathen child who plucked that beautiful daisy from Old Lady Sourapple’s flower garden.

He speaks in a monotone, staccato style while connecting a series of wires, straps, and velcroey things to various parts of your body. Small talk about what he’s doing without really saying anything more than you already now—he’s strapping you to a device that can and will read your mind.

Your heart begins to patter its pitter.

You think back to the time when told your mother you were at Judy Jenkins’ house studying when you were actually cruising through town with football team captain Ned Noneck, making the popular teen loop, back and forth, round and round, between Billy’s Burger Palace and Susie’s Soda Shoppe. Had to let all the cool kids see you in the car snuggled up tightly to Ned while the radio blasted out Go All the Way by the Raspberries, and Dragging the Line by Tommy James and those guys known as the Shondells.

“He’s gonna know what you did.”

The man ripssssss the Velcro away from your arm to readjust and then squishes it back into place.

Darn. The pen and paper clip you “borrowed” from the office.

And you did sort of look at Karen Stdueburke’s paper while taking the math test 35 years ago.

Oh. My. Goodness. Will he ask about that time when you were out town on business and you charged the extra dessert to your company credit card?”

Darn. Darn. Darn.

The man takes a seat and asks you to state your name and date of birth and before you know it you’ve blurted out every single transgression and wrongdoing you’ve committed over the course of your entire life. You’ve told of trespasses and confessed sins you’d forgotten. You even went into detail about undertipping a waiter because you wanted to save the extra quarter for the collection plate at church but instead used it to buy yourself an extra scoop of chocolate mint ice cream.

Guilty As Sin!

“Guilty. Guilty. I. Am. A. Guilty. Sinner!”, you scream as you run out of the room sweating like a pig, huffing and puffing like the bellows on an antique pump organ, with your heart pounding against the inside of your chest wall, mimicking the thundering start of Queen’s We Will Rock You. 

All this because the mere thought of a “lie detector” machine intimidated you into confessing.

You see, in most cases a polygraph test is used by to investigators who’re trying to elicit a confession. It’s slight of hand and sweet-talking that works best, not a series of rapid and long and tall red lines, peaks, and valleys on a piece of paper that seals the deal. Not at all.

It’s the person’s belief that the machine works that makes it so effective as a crime-solving tool. After all, the science behind it is so flawed that results gained from the devices are typically not admissible in courts (see Frye v. United States and United States v. Scheffer).

Still, the fear of what could come out is a driving factor of utilizing polygraphs.

You can’t hide your lying eyes

You can’t hide your lying eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lying eyes

~ The Eagles


There are other means to detect when a person is lying, such as EyeDetect, a system that measures changes in pupil size, the movement of the eyes, reading behaviors, blinking of the eye, and certain fixations.

Using an infrared camera and a complex algorithm, EyeDetect records responses to questions and eye measurements and immediately uploads those responses to a server. The Converus Credibility Score stating whether the person’s responses were either true or false and are returned right away.

The European Polygraph Journal reported “the mean decision accuracy of EyeDetect is 86%. That is comprised of .89 for True Negatives (TN) and .83 for True Positives (TP) and no Inconclusive (INC) results.”

So please don’t worry, because …


I won’t ever leave
If you want me to stay
Nothing you could do
That could turn me away

Hanging on anyway
Believing the things you say
Being the fool

You’ve taken my life
So take my soul
That’s what you said
And I believed it all

I want to be with you
Long as you want me to
But don’t move away

Ain’t that what you said?
Ain’t that what you said?
Ain’t that what you said?

Liar, liar

~ Three Dog Night


1030 hours.

Radio transmission – Theft from jewelry store. Items taken—two diamond rings with value exceeding $10,000.

Traffic stop.

Weather – Sunny. 84 degrees.

Reason for stop – Vehicle matched description provided by jewelry store owner. Plates—out of state.

Weapon(s) involved – Taurus .380 recovered from beneath driver’s seat. Fully loaded with spare magazine in small cloth bag. No weapons used in connection with the crime.

Stolen items not found.

My partner and I were pros at playing good cop/bad cop. In fact, we were the go-to guys for eliciting confessions. But these two, the man and woman suspected of taking two expensive diamond rings from a local jewelry store, were also pros. In their line of work—stealing—they were some of the best in the business and their game was an old one. They pretend to shop for engagement rings. She tries on several, asking to see first one then another and then back to this one and then the other, and so on and so on until the clerk has an assortment of bling scattered about the glass countertop like a spattering of snowflakes on a frozen lake surface.

Their goal was to confuse the clerk so they could pocket a few gems and then make their getaway after not seeing the “perfect” ring.

It worked. When the frustrated clerk/owner returned the items to their respective spots in the case she noticed two valuable rings were missing. So were the two “customers.”

The responding uniformed officers asked, of course, for a description of the pair of thieves, but the owner simply couldn’t offer any solid details. They’d so thoroughly confused her that all she could remember was one was male and the other, female. She was able to recall their race and that both wore nice clothing … she thought. However, she wasn’t sure if it was the man who wore a blue shirt or if it was the woman whose top was blue. She was confident the man had on khaki pants, though. No doubt about that detail.

For the record, the actual color of the man’s shirt was green and the woman had selected a red and white striped top as her shirt du jour. They both had on blue jeans at the time of the traffic stop that took place within 30 minutes of the theft. There was no other clothing inside their car. The owner’s descriptions were not even close and, unfortunately, the store’s surveillance cameras were switched off. “Oh, we don’t bother with that thing,” she later told me.

Questioning the two suspects was going nowhere. We had them in separate rooms—ALWAYS separate the suspects and witnesses to prevent comparing stories—and we alternated between the two, trying every trick in the book. You left fingerprints. The clerk ID’d you. Witnesses saw you. Yada, yada, yada. But we were spinning our wheels because they’d readily admitted to being in the store and knew no one other than the clerk was there at the time the items were taken.

They said they’d looked at and tried on rings. However, they didn’t like what they saw and left. But they didn’t take anything.

It was their word against the store owner’s and we had no evidence. They’d allowed us to search both them and their car and we found nothing but the gun, which was illegal—he was a convicted felon and the gun was concealed. I even tried using the weapon as leverage—we’ll cut you some slack for it if you confess to the jewelry theft and return the rings. No dice. We had nothing.

So I took a walk around the hallways, trying to think of some sort of angle to help garner a confession. As I passed by the door to the dispatchers’ room one of them called out with a cheery “Good morning,” so I stepped inside where I noticed a small stack of new videos (VHS tapes at the time) beside her terminal. The top one was a collection of Looney Tunes cartoons with Bugs Bunny’s image plastered on the front. He held a carrot in one hand and his rabbit lips were split into a wide, buck-toothy grin. The video was a gift for her child’s birthday.

I had an idea and asked to borrow the tape.

After a quick stop in my office for a bit of artistic trickery, I returned to the interview room where the female suspect sat waiting. When I opened the door and stepped inside she smiled and asked if she could leave.

I took a seat in the chair across from her and returned her smile. Then I slid the tape across the tabletop. “We have a video,” I said. What I didn’t say was that I’d removed the Bugs label and replaced it with one I’d cobbled together in my office before returning to the interview room. The new label simply read “Video – June 6, 1994.” (June 6 was the current date, and Video…well, it was a video, right?).

“When I show this tape to a judge … well, you know what’s going to happen, right?” I said.

Tears quickly formed in the corners of her eyes. Then she looked down toward her feet and nodded. “I know,” she said. “Yeah, we did it. He took them, though. Not me. You saw that on the video, right?”

That classic downward look is a telltale sign a confession is imminent

Suddenly she wouldn’t shut up, telling me they’d dropped the rings out of the window when they saw me pull out behind them. I sent a patrol officer to the approximate location where he found both rings. She also confessed to other thefts in other cities. The gun, too, was stolen. They’d broken into a home and found it while searching for valuables. The necklace she wore that day was stolen, as was the watch on her boyfriend’s wrist.

When I entered the room with her boyfriend/partner in crime, with the tape in hand, my first words to him were, “What’s up, Doc?”

An hour later we had signed confessions from from both suspects.

And that’s how Bugs Bunny helped me solve the Case of the Missing Jewelry.

And, well … That’s all, folks.


The art of interrogation is exactly that … an art. It’s an elaborate song and dance routine that begins with the two participants squaring off, much like a pair or group of birds searching for a mate. Doesn’t make sense, you say? Well, lets compare the Blue Manakin to the investigators who’re hard at it trying to illicit a confession from a bad guy.

Step One

Blue Manakin – An alpha male initiates the ritual by first forming a team of birds to help him attract females.

Cops – The cop in charge picks other cops to serve as either good cop or bad cop, or to simply be present as witnesses.

Step Two

Blue Manakin – When an interested female comes along, the team begins flying around her, flapping their wings and making a buzzing noise. She likes this.

Cops – Try to make the suspect feel at ease with casual conversation, a little something to eat and/or drink, and perhaps even a cigarette. Bad guys like this.

Step Three

Blue Manakin – When he feels the time is right, the alpha bird commands his partners to stop the flapping and buzzing and other acrobatics. If the female liked what she saw, she’ll mate with the alpha male.

Cops – When he/she feels the time is right, he/she will stop the questioning and listen. If the suspect likes what he’s heard, he spills his guts.

Step Four

Blue Manakin – The alpha bird’s team is dismissed.

Cops – With confession in hand, the suspect is delivered to the county jail. Everyone moves on to the next case. If the cops did their jobs correctly, all will be well. If not, the case is dismissed.

Step Five

Blue Manakin – Alpha’s team members stand by, waiting for something to happen to alpha male so they can battle to take his place.

Cops – There’s more to do than any one investigator could accomplish in a lifetime. No one hurries to take his/her place.

During the interrogation ritual, investigators use a variety of methods to gain confessions. One such tactic is the Reid Technique. The Reid Technique is a nine-step method that is in three primary stages – Fact Analysis, The Investigative Interview, and The Interrogation.

Keep in mind that officers are permitted to lie during an interrogation. However, they are not allowed to offer leniency, a spot in a particular jail or prison, and they are not, at any time, to threaten a person for any reason.

The nine steps of the Reid Technique are:

1. The positive confrontation. The investigator tells the suspect she knows they’re guilty and has the evidence to back up the claim.

2. Theme development. The investigator then presents a moral reasoning (theme) for the offense. This could include, for example, placing the moral blame on someone else or circumstances beyond the control of the suspect. The investigator delivers the theme in a monologue fashion and in a definite manner that is sympathetic to the suspect. They’re trying to “win” his confidence.

Interrogation: The Reid Technique

3. Handling denials. The suspect is likely to ask permission to speak and this is usually to deny the accusations. The investigator should not allow the suspect to do

so (continue with the denials). Move on.

Suspects often interrupt an officer’s questioning to exclaim their innocence, guilty or not.

4. Overcoming objections. When attempts to deny are not successful, a guilty suspect sometimes finds a way to object to an officer’s accusations by offering reasons as to why they’ve claimed innocence – “I couldn’t have killed Sally Sue, because I loved her.” The savvy investigator should pretend to accept these objections as if they were the absolute truth. This is not the time to argue with the suspect. Instead, set aside the reasons for the denial for further development of the theme.

5. Procurement and retention of suspect’s attention. The investigator must always be sure the suspect is attentive and focusing on the theme and the officer’s words rather than the possible consequences for his actions (punishment). To do so, it’s best to close the physical distance between the detective and the suspect. Keep the suspect’s mind as far away from prison and jail as possible.

6. Handling the suspect’s passive mood. The investigator should maintain an understanding and sympathetic demeanor while encouraging the suspect to tell the truth.

7. Presenting an alternative question. The investigator should present two choices, with one being a better justification for the crime other than the truth – “I don’t think you’d do something like this on purpose, right? Why don’t you tell me exactly what happened so we can best know how to move forward. I want to help you do the right thing.”

8. Having the suspect orally relate various details of the offense. After the suspect accepts one side of the alternative (this is the “gotcha” moment because they’ve just admitted guilt), the detective should immediately acknowledge the admission of guilt and then have them describe what took place, in their own words. This is the time to LISTEN. A great investigator knows how and when to listen. LISTEN!!

9. Converting an oral confession to a written confession. The suspect writes his confession. Or, it’s transcribed and he signs it.