Time and time again, when children are asked why they falsely confessed to serious crimes, the answer is the same: "I thought they'd let me go home if I just told them what they wanted to hear." Although a specific promise that a child could go home would be considered a promise of leniency and likely result in the confession being suppressed, police officers rarely make such specific promises -- they are far more subtle. The child is not told he can go home but it is implied with suggestions that the child will receive "help" if he confesses or that the "juvenile system is geared toward rehabilitation" or "you have your whole life ahead of you, noone is going to treat you the same way as if you were an adult who committed the crime." To a desperate child, overwhelmed by the stress of a confrontational interrogation, all of these tactics mean one thing -- if I confess, then this will stop and I'll be able to go home. John Reid and Associates, the leading trainer of interrogators teaches its officers that it is okay to imply leniency as long as you don't specifically promise it. In other words, getting a suspect to reason that leniency will follow from a confession is perfectly fine because we, as police officers, can't be responsible for what a suspect thinks. This is pure hogwash. The whole point of these tactics is to manipulate the suspect's perception of his situation -- to get him to feel hopeless -- and then to motivate the suspect to confess by making him think that it is in his best interests to do so.
The 14 year old boy who placed himself at the crime scene of Amy Yates murder when he was 12 is now talking about why he gave a "confession". " I thought if I told them something they'd let me go, the boy told the Atlanta Journal Constitution but now says he learned a new lesson: "NEVER SAY YOU DID SOMETHING YOU DIDN"T DO."
Even the so-called confession reeks of the Reid technique which includes suggesting to a suspect that the crime was an "accident" instead of intentional or impulsive rather than premeditated. The explanation given by the boy was no doubt his attempt to minimize his involvement in response to police suggestion: The boy told detectives he was chasing Amy when the little girl's neck hit his arm "real hard." " I was chasing her around a tree and she was going to act like she was going to jump in the creek, and she stopped and I accidentally hit her 'cause I couldn't stop real quick and she fell in."