I posted earlier about Bill Luedder's new book Cry Rape: The True Story of One Woman's Harrowing Quest for Justice, which tells the story of how an ambitious detective, using psychological interrogation techniques designed for guilty suspects, coerced a rape victim to recant her claim that she had been raped and how the woman ("Patty") fought to make sure that justice was served in her case. Having read the book, I can say it is a must read, a powerful indictment of how tunnelvision can lead police officers and prosecutors even to turn against crime victims in a desperate attempt to protect the system.
One of the most fascinating sections of the book deals with the lengths to which the city of Madison were willing to go to defend their police officers against internal disciplinary action and a civil suit filed by the victim. To free the lead detective from any blame, lawyers retained Joseph Buckley, President of John E. Reid & Associates in Chicago, to give an expert opinion as to whether the recantation of Patty was voluntary and reliable. Buckley opined that the police had conducted "reasonable investigation" that Patty's interrogations were conducted in a "reasonable manner, and that her resulting confession "appears to be both a voluntary and truthful statement."
Everything must have appeared reasonable to Mr. Buckley because the interrogation tactics used against Patty were textbook Reid techniques. And for years, Mr. Buckley has trained interrogators that the Reid technique does not produce false confessions, in part, because the Reid technique is only used on guilty suspects. But in Patty's case, the technique was used on an innocent victim and it produced a false recantation (one that was later proven false when DNA evidence identified a third party as the rapist). The Cry Rape story thus undercuts two of the foundational premises of the Reid technique: 1) that investigators can tell by reading body language or verbal cues whether a suspect is lying; and 2) that the psychological techniques do not produce involuntary or false confessions. In Patty's case, Buckley was wrong on both counts (as was the judge who ruled the confession voluntary).
Fortunately, future suspects in serious crimes who are interrogated by police officers in Wisconsin may be protected from psychological coercion by a new law requiring that police electronically record all custodial interrogations. But Cry Rape suggests that the lawmakers should think about extending the law to all interviews of witnesses and victims as well. The same pseudo-scientific judgements about truthfulness are often used to launch full scale interrogations against both witnesses and victims, a move which as Cry Rape demonstrates can have tragic results.