chapter  11
22 Pages

A critical appraisal of modern police interrogations

WithSaul M. Kassin

Let me begin with a story that already has historic value in the annals of wrongful convictions. This was an infamous case that took place in 1989 in New York City. Known as the ‘Central Park jogger case’, it involved a young woman, an investment banker, who was beaten senseless, raped and left for dead. It was a heinous crime that horrified the city. The victim’s skull had multiple fractures, her eye socket was crushed and she lost three quarters of her blood. Defying the odds, she survived; but to this day, she is completely amnesic for the incident. Soon thereafter, solely on the basis of police-induced confessions taken within 72 hours of the crime, five African-and Hispanic-American boys, 14-16 years old, were convicted of the attack and sentenced to prison. There were no physical traces of the defendants at the crime scene and no traces of the scene on them. At the time, however, it was easy to understand why detectives aggressively interrogated the boys, some of whom were ‘wilding’ in the park that night.