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Confronting TortureEssays on the Ethics, Legality, History, and Psychology of Torture Today$
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Scott A. Anderson and Martha C. Nussbaum

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226529387

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226529554.001.0001

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Police Interrogation and Coercion in Domestic American History: Lessons for the War on Terror

Police Interrogation and Coercion in Domestic American History: Lessons for the War on Terror

(p.146) Chapter 7 Police Interrogation and Coercion in Domestic American History: Lessons for the War on Terror
Confronting Torture

Richard A. Leo

K. Alexa Koenig

University of Chicago Press

Many US police departments used physical and psychological coercion in their interrogation methods from the late nineteenth century to the present, though there has been a marked transition from the more physical to more psychological and deceptive methods. The use of the “third degree” as a method of securing confessions was fairly standard practice in many different police departments, seeing its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s. This chapter elucidates a number of factors that combined around that time to rein in the use of physical coercion by police departments, including several high-profile scandals in which innocents were convicted on the basis of false confessions, the report of the Wickersham Commission excoriating the use of the technique as ineffective, and developments in constitutional law strengthening the rights of the accused to due process and against self-incrimination. The chapter concludes by drawing some lessons from the American domestic experiment with the third degree in the early part of the 20th century for the use of torture in contemporary military interrogation practices in the War on Terror in the 21st century.

Keywords:   coercion, false confessions, interrogation, police, right against self-incrimination, third degree, torture, US

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