Politicians seem to think so. Or at least they’ve said as much through the last election cycle. Whether it be genuine belief or riding the rising tide of the concerns of their constituents, everybody from former prosecutors who did nothing to change the criminal justice problem from the inside to born-billionaires who took on the cause prior to election (despite not having previously used any of their billions to make a difference in the past) are trying (or at least pretending) to make the criminal justice system a little more hospitable.
The politicians are throwing out all sorts of neither new nor novel reform. “We need to overhaul the bond system.” “We can decriminalize cannabis possession.” “We should eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing.”
According to twitter today El Presidente is trying to pressure NFL owners to prevent their players from “taking a knee” during the anthem. NFL commissioner Roger Goddell has penned a letter to NFL owners telling them the players should stand.
I’m sure it’s just an odd coincidence those two things happened within hours of each other. Sometimes things fall out of the sky like that.
JUST IN: In letter to NFL owners, Roger Goodell says: “We believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.” pic.twitter.com/iveGOQgJnz
Just like the coincidences I see in court. Like, the one where all the clients I’ve ever represented who got pulled over for minor traffic offenses but ended up laying on the deck with tazer electrodes stuck in their skin were African American.
Just an odd coincidence as well. I’m sure that, in the tens of thousands of cases I’ve touched, if a white guy ever stayed on the cell phone after Continue reading “Taking a knee.”
Kids who may be victims of abuse are put through something called a “victim sensitive interview.” Since children, in theory, don’t necessarily want to talk about being abused the entire interview process is a staged affair with few onlookers (that the child knows about, anyway) in a comfortable setting. These interviews are (or should be) conducted by investigators with lots of training as conducting them wrong runs the potential double-hazard of either not getting enough information from the child, or getting suggested (ie. unreliable) information from the child.
We spend millions of dollars each year in an attempt to get objectively genuine information from children who may not know how or may not want to discuss what happened.We want the truth from those kids and we want it in a way that it can’t be questioned.
There’s a lot of time, money, and effort spent ensuring the truth comes out- after all, if the interviewer screws it up the consequence may be failing the most frail and vulnerable of people.
Potential abusers go through interviews, too. They’re not called “victim sensitive interviews” because they aren’t anything like the “victim sensitive” process. They’re called “interrogations.”
Since potential defendants, in theory, don’t necessarily want to talk about being abusers the entire interrogation is a staged affair. It typically takes place in a spartan room devoid of comfort which may have a couple of investigators and who knows how many more watching over a video monitor.
These interviews are conducted by a trained investigator using a psychologically suggestive technique called the Reid Technique. Like the victim sensitive interview techniques, the Reid method has been studied and analyzed for years yielding no shortage of people who’ve acquiesced to the psychological games and confessed to crimes (even murder) that they factually did not commit.
While it can be reliable it also can be extremely unreliable- with the difference often not being in the training of the interrogator, but rather the interrogator’s preconceived belief of what the defendant should be saying.
If the risk of a poor child sensitive interview technique is an abuser going free, decades of exoneration have shown us that the risk of poor Reid Technique is caging up people that the police have already determined are guilty even when they aren’t.
Notwithstanding the number of both practical (ie. Numbers of “confessed” criminals being declared actually innocent in post-trial proceedings) and scholarly negative review of interrogations done with Reid, it’s still commonplace in interrogations throughout the country. You’d think that a system which so poorly distorts the truth might be jettisoned in favor of something more reliable but, sadly, the system is focused only on “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” (and not truth).
Both victim sensitive interviews and interrogations use well-researched methods to try and convince people who’d remain quiet to tell their deepest secrets to strangers. The stark contrast in reliability between the two has less to do with the subject of the interaction than it does the beliefs and leading nature of person conducting the interview. This is troubling.
What actually happened or what was actually in somebody’s mind should be more important than the beliefs of the interviewer, and it only makes sense that we should be constantly working on better and more objective ways to get at that information.
Of course, we would only do that if the truth really matters. Which, with respect to the criminally accused, it likely never will.
It might not have been the first day I started at the Public Defender’s office, but it certainly wasn’t long after. I knew nothing about the day-to-day operations of a criminal defense attorney (law schools don’t teach such things). I was about to be turned loose into the confusing, complicated, chaotic world of juvenile delinquency court and my new boss was trying to boil my role down to terms my inexperienced self could easily grasp.
“Sometimes,” he said, “your job is to be the only person in that courtroom willing to say something nice about a kid.”