Analyzing Videotaped Interrogations and Confessions

The recorded interrogation has the potential to make the playing field more level by inhibiting some of the more egregious interrogation tactics and making interrogator-suspect interaction available for replay by fact finders. The recording of the interrogation, however, may not give the appearance of a smoking gun or make it obvious that a defendant would cave to an interrogator’s coercive pressure. Rather, the videotaped interrogation will require some decoding. Defense attorneys must become familiar with the techniques and social psychology of interrogation so that they can identify persuasion and coercion. Where coercion occurs, the defense attorney can explain — with data — how the interrogators used techniques that could have overborne the suspect’s will and may have caused the suspect to confess falsely. The authors highlight a few things to watch for when a case involves a recorded interrogation.