If you still haven’t watched Making a Murderer on Netflix, climb out from under that rock, stop shoveling out the lame excuses and watch it. Also, this post is heavy on the spoilers, so don’t read it until after you’ve watched all 10 episodes.
Remember Brendan Dassey? The 16-year old kid who was sent to jail for helping his uncle, Steven Avery, sexually assault and murder Theresa Halbach. The cringe-worthy video of Brendan being interrogated and basically fed the details of the murder is enough to make any viewer scream.
If you need a refresher, the full four-hour video of Brendan’s interrogation is online.
Brendan Dassey is self-admittedly unintelligent and has an IQ that is close to the range of intellectual disability. Although this makes him an easy target, making people confess to things they didn’t do isn’t that hard, nor uncommon.
An article published in The New Yorker, describes the practice employed by the investigators who questioned Brendan Dassey: The Reid Technique, a practice that is widely used by North American law-enforcement agencies. This technique has been criticized for pumping out false confessions at a disquieting rate.
Reflect on Dassey’s interrogation while reading the coercive nature of the Reid Technique:
Look for nonverbal cues to see if the subject is lying. When you find them fidgeting or looking away after answering, leave the room for 5 minutes and come back with a file saying you know they did it and that they are lying to you. Try to get them to confess by minimizing the crime and once they do, praise them. Ask questions in attempt to get corroborating evidence like, “Where did you hit her?”
The Reid technique employs a sense of hopelessness in the subject and often mistakes lying for nervousness or discomfort, which were clear in Dassey’s case. Maybe if investigators employed a different technique, in which they didn’t lie, coerce or minimize, Brendan’s wouldn’t be sitting in a jail cell right now.