The value of a post-confession interview
Understanding the offender’s mindset provides insights into the most effective interrogation themes to incorporate in future cases
Once the investigator obtains a legally acceptable confession from an offender, the job is over, right? Actually, it is not.
The investigator should always attempt to verify and corroborate the details of the subject's confession. By conducting a post-confession interview, we can learn from the subject what motivated them to tell the truth.
For the past seven decades, John E. Reid and Associates has conducted post-confession interviews. The insights learned from the subjects have proven to be invaluable in the development of effective persuasion techniques.
As times change and the criminal mind evolves, and we can use what we learn from these interviews to more effectively adapt our approach to the current environment.
Setting the stage for a post-confession interview
Following an offender’s acknowledgment (prior to being charged with the offense) that they committed the crime in question and provided the corroborating details, the investigator should compliment them for being cooperative and making the decision to tell the truth. This will help to extend the rapport that was established with the subject and enhance the opportunity to conduct a post-confession interview. The post-confession interview generally takes place after the subject has acknowledged their confession in the appropriate written or recorded document.
While not all offenders will agree to participate in this interview, begin by asking the subject a general open-ended question like, “Why did you decide to tell me the truth about what you did?” Since rapport is still high, it’s likely the defendant will blurt out statements that both solidify the voluntariness of the confession, as well as authenticate the subject's mental alertness and their "consciousness of guilt."
The subject is then asked if they would be willing to answer a few questions about your conversation with them, making sure they know it is totally voluntary and they can stop at any time.
The information obtained during this type of interview will help investigators better understand the specific offender’s motives, justifications, influencing factors that prompted them to commit the crime and what the investigator said that prompted them to decide to tell the truth. We can also learn what prior investigators said or how they acted that made the subject decide that they would not tell those individuals the truth about what they did.
Post-confession interview questions
Select the most appropriate post-confession interview questions from the list that follows. The questions should preferably be asked by the original investigator who has established trust and rapport with the subject.
- When you were first questioned about this, why didn’t you tell the truth at that time? (Obtain offender’s fears/concerns such as going to jail, losing their job, their family or friends’ perception, restitution, social standing and embarrassment.)
- Is there anything I said or did that made you initially decide that you did not want to tell the truth? (Acquire what to avoid in the future.)
- What did I do or say that made you decide to tell the truth? (Incorporate in similar future interrogations.)
- Why did you do this? (Possibly obtain motive or additional insight.)
- Was there any evidence that caused you concern? (Baiting question.)
- How did you justify or rationalize your behavior? (Minimization or shifting blame to victim.)
- How did you choose the victim? (Themes to blame the victim’s behavior, rationalization.)
- What could the victim have done to prevent this from happening? (Themes blaming victim behavior, rationalization.)
- Did the victim act in any way, do or say anything that caused you to do this? (Themes blaming victim, rationalization.)
- Did you have any remorse for your behavior? (Themes to compliment the offender.)
- How did you get started engaging in these types of behaviors? (Themes blaming outside factors.)
- What did you do to try to fool or mislead me about your involvement in this? (Understanding offender’s countermeasures.)
- What would you say to someone who was in your shoes to prompt them to tell the truth? (Understand the offender’s mindset to interrogation.)
- Did the environment such as the room setting or arrangements make you feel uneasy or comfortable? (Possible improvements to future settings.)
- What were you expecting when you first agreed to be questioned regarding this matter? (Obtain offender’s perception and thoughts of the interview/interrogation process.)
Understanding the mindset of offenders provides insights into the most effective interrogation themes to incorporate in future cases. Additionally, this information will also reveal what not to say, that is, what type of statements are counterproductive in terms of persuading the subject to tell the truth.
Critical information will also be obtained regarding how offenders justify or excuse their behavior, such as:
- Theft: “The money was left out so I took it and it wasn’t that much anyway.”
- Child abuse: “She was crying and I just wanted her to shut up so I threw her down to stop. I’m not a child abuser.”
- Homicide: “If he would have given me the drugs I paid for, I wouldn’t have pulled the trigger. I’m not a bad guy.”
- Rape: “She did say ‘no’ several times but I thought she was just being playful and wanted it, you know.”
- Human trafficking: “Look, you may disagree, but I provided her a better life than she had.”
The post-confession interview affords the investigator an unfiltered view into the offender’s perspective and mindset during the commission of the crime, as well as the interrogation process.