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Anatomy of a Police Interrogation Gone Wrong

A video described as "required viewing by every detective and every juvenile officer" depicts detectives in a Chicago suburb coercing a confession from a 15-year-old to a shooting he did not commit. WBEZ created a transcript and analyzed the interrogation's four critical errors in a series of video excerpts. “This interrogation should be required viewing by every detective and every juvenile officer — a tool for training them how not to interrogate suspects, especially those who are vulnerable,” said Steven Drizin, a Northwestern University law professor who co-directs Northwestern’s Center on Wrongful Convictions and reviewed the video for WBEZ.

The video shows a Waukegan detective leading the 15-year-old to make false statements implicating himself in the Feb. 4 shooting of a dollar-store clerk. The errors, according to Drizin, included: negating the youth's Miranda rights by tricking him into thinking nothing bad would come from whatever he told detectives and foot-dragging over getting the suspect a lawyer; deceptively suggesting self-defense or accident explanations would absolve the youth of criminal responsibility; lying about the strength of supposed evidence implicating the youth; and feeding the suspect facts about the crime. The same types of tactics have led to many other false confessions, especially by vulnerable, young suspects, Drizin said. The police kept the youth in jail on charges, including attempted murder, until his basketball team proved he was in another town during the shooting. The city of Waukegan refused to release video of the 43-minute interrogation until WBEZ sued and a judge ordered it.


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