- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (February 28, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674026489
- ISBN-13: 978-0674026483
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,426,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Police Interrogation and American Justice
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The 'third degree' is long gone. But as Richard Leo shows, trickery, manipulation, and deceit are still basic tools of police interrogation of suspects. His unsettling and brilliant book gives a bird's-eye view of systematic coercion that undermines basic rights at the entrance to the legal system.
--Elizabeth Loftus, author of Eyewitness Testimony
This is the best book on police interrogation I have ever read-- and I have been reading about the subject (and writing about it) for 50 years. The long chapter on the 'third degree' is fascinating-- and it reveals that a century ago the city police of America were using some of the same harsh interrogation techniques that the CIA used after 9/11.
--Yale Kamisar, University of San Diego
A gripping indictment of what goes on behind the closed doors of police interrogation rooms. From psychological manipulation, to threats of harm and promises of leniency, to lengthy incommunicado questioning, all the way to outright brutality...Leo's book is a powerful contribution to criminal justice public policy...Police Interrogation and American Justice causes one to marvel at the extent to which the parties in the justice system have been complicit in enabling lawless police to effect convictions of suspects by coercing their confessions. Leo offers suggestions for reform, which are fair and reasonable in a country that has the highest incarceration rate in the world.
--Heidi Boghosian (Federal Lawyer 2008-09-01)
It is the best book on this subject. Richard Leo uses data not ordinarily available. He brilliantly documents the everydayness of police dialogue with suspects in chapters discussing "professionalizing the police" and "the third degree in America" as well as through analysis of relentlessly systematic police use of deceit, manipulation, lying and disguised coercion...The result is both convincing and brilliant...This is an excellent book. Read it. Use it. Such books are exceedingly rare.
--Ephraim Margolin (The Champion 2008-09-01)
[A] brilliant analysis of police interrogations. In this rich tome, [Leo] analyzes police interrogations in the broad context of the adversarial system of American criminal justice. He presents a thorough look at interrogations as a truth-seeking tool as well as a manipulative means to coerce suspects to say what they should not say, and do not necessarily want to say. Leo's approach of using case studies to supplement his scholarly arguments makes this an interesting and valuable read for anyone interested in police work...The result is a well-organized, well-written social scientific account of police interrogations...His book is an important contribution to the workings of the police in America.
--Geoffrey P. Alpert (Contemporary Sociology 2008-09-01)
Law professor Leo, one of the most prolific and knowledgeable scholars on police investigations, offers a book both eye-opening and important.
--B. J. Goetz (Choice 2009-02-01)
About the Author
Richard A. Leo is Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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Popular belief in the "myth of the psychological interrogation" - that only the guilty confess and that confession statements are reliable - prevents judges and jurors from understanding is that the extreme and sophisticated psychological coercion tactics wielded in some interrogations, especially in serious or high-profile cases, can make almost anyone feel helpless enough to falsely confess, Leo argues. He explains how the final product is jointly scripted by the police and the hapless suspect into such a compelling narrative that a fair trial is rendered impossible.
One of the book's many strengths is its focus on topics that are rarely studied in much depth, such as this topic of how the postadmission narrative is constructed. Another rarely highlighted topic is the corrupting effect of systematic police deception in reports and court testimony about what goes on in the interrogation room. Leo also analyzes the state of the Miranda warnings, which he argues have been transformed into a "public relations coup" and gutted to the point that they serve not as a protection for suspects but as yet another tool of law enforcement. And he provides timely discussion of the limitations of applying artificial laboratory research to the real world of law and order.
Leo concludes by arguing that we are entering the "Era of Innocence," as symbolized by DNA testing exonerating hundreds of innocent convicts, in which reforms can be undertaken to transform police interrogation from an adversarial to a truth-finding practice. His proposed reforms include mandatory electronic recording, requiring probable cause to interrogate, prohibiting promises or threats, protecting vulnerable populations such as the mentally retarded, mentally ill and juveniles, and allowing expert witness testimony about coercive interrogation techniques.
Throughout this compelling volume, Leo strengthens his arguments using rich examples drawn from his massive collection of firsthand data from research and consultation in actual criminal cases. This cutting-edge book is a must-read for anyone involved in or interested in the criminal justice system.
Some of the cases the author cites to demonstrate his conclusions are stomach churning in their injustice to the accused. Families blown apart and innocent lives ruined because of the intensity of the interrogations and the police belief in their own infallability at determining the truth. The cases of the Spokane police deputy and the U.S. Marshalls son are alarming reminders that it doesn't matter who you are, a scrap of circumstancial evidence or a clearly false accusation and you too can find yourself in a police interrogation room.
The author tends towards writing in an academic form. It's definitely readable, but some might find it a bit dry. He does provide plenty of references and I found it enlightening to read through them.
My only real complaint is that the author repeats some of his points over and over again throughout the book. After a while I started suspecting that the repeated points were filler to make the book longer or the chapters were academic papers written by the author and edited into book form.