One of my favorite memories is of studying abroad for one course in London, England during law school. But the course did not go off without its awkward moments. True to my experience, I created perhaps the most awkward of those moments during a back-and-forth about interrogation. You see, one of my classmates—a middle-aged man who clearly had his shit together—commented that he really didn’t think someone who had done nothing wrong could possibly confess to a crime they didn’t commit.
At that moment, of course, I felt the blood begin to pound against the veins in my neck. My hand went up almost reflexively.
“How many other people in this room have ever been interrogated by police?” I asked, raising my own hand and turning to face the room from the front row. You know who else raised their hands? Nearly all the black students. “I will take one for the team, then.” I told them about my experience as a mother who had lost a child only a few hours before, and the desperation I felt at being accused during that step of the NYSP’s use of the Reid Technique. I honestly stated that I would have said anything to get out of that room. That included almost implicating myself and my then-fiance in a murder that never happened.
I hadn’t intended to overshare; I was not in a roomful of people I trusted. But ignorance of the tragedies that occur in interrogation rooms every day is not something I can let stand. I call ‘em like I see ‘em.
So you understand, the interplay between the science of trauma and false confessions is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. But rather than regale you with my own research on this topic, I want you to set aside some time to learn about some of the subject parties of that research from Douglas Starr writing for Science Magazine. He will give you the same facts about the same people without all the editorializing—and frankly without my having to relive my own trauma. And if you are so inclined after reading his article, I pray that you also look into this film about Adrian Thomas called Scenes of a Crime. His story is one to which I share a connection that I will not explain to you here, but that resulted in my becoming a lawyer.
People confess every day to crimes they did not commit. Juries convict them. This is a known fact in 2019. When you find yourself in a small room with the police and you aren’t sure why you are there, let them know under no uncertain terms that you will not speak to them any further without your lawyer present. Let that be the end of the story.