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IPFS News Link • Criminal Interrogation

Five Facts About Police Deception and Youth You Should Know

•, By Nigel Quiroz

When people are brought in for questioning by police, they are expected to tell the truth. Most people would assume that goes both ways — that the police must also be truthful during interrogations, but the reality is that the police can lie to you during an interrogation, and it is not uncommon for them to do so.

But why would police lie? During an interrogation, officers may lie about evidence they have to pressure you into confessing to a crime they believe you have committed — even if you are innocent. 

That's what happened in the infamous case of the Exonerated Five (previously known as the Central Park Five). During individual interrogations, police told each of the five teens that the others had implicated them in committing the crime. In Connecticut, police falsely told 16-year-old Bobby Johnson that they had evidence he had committed the murder and that he would face the death penalty, but if he admitted guilt, they could make sure he would only get probation. As a result, he falsely confessed, with police eliciting three different confessions until his story "fit" the evidence. Both of these cases involved police officers lying to teenagers. Young people are especially vulnerable to falsely confessing under the pressure of police deception tactics. Today, there is a growing movement for change in a number of states across the US and we have the power to protect people from police deception by supporting legislation that reduces the risk of false or unreliable confessions.

Here's what you should know about law enforcement's use of deception in interrogations.

1. It is almost always legal for police to lie during interrogations.

Police have long been prohibited from using physical force during interrogations, but they are still allowed to use a variety of powerful psychological ploys to extract confessions from people. During an interrogation, police can lie and make false claims. And these tactics can pressure and terrorize innocent people into falsely confessing to crimes they didn't commit.

For example, law enforcement can lie to a defendant and say their friend or alleged co-defendant confessed, saying they committed the crime together, even when that person has not confessed to anything. Police can also claim to have evidence, such as fingerprints, linking the subject of the interrogation to the crime even if no such evidence exists. These kinds of lies about having evidence have long been identified as risk factors for false confessions and have contributed to some of the most notorious wrongful convictions, like those of the Exonerated Five and Bobby Johnson.