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Do you know your interrogation rights?
Josh Moody
Antelope Staff
Photo from Internet
The Law and Order television series showcases your rights and has episodes of crime drama.
Photo by Staff
Dr. Forrest commends television shows like Law and Order that reflect todays society.

The research of Dr. Krista Forrest looks very closely at a position that no one wants to be in. Forrest, who teaches in the psychology department, has focused her research on police interrogations.

Of concern to Forrest and the students who aid her in completing her research are the strategies employed by police that lead to false confessions. Forrest examines practices of police deception and coercion that often result in these false confessions. The lack of knowledge held by suspects regarding their Miranda rights also plays a key role in Forrest’s research.

With the help of students participating in the Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, Forrest has spent several years devoted to understanding the variety of factors that influence a police interrogation. These factors include but are not limited to age, intelligence, sobriety, mental illness and police experience.

In the course of the research conducted by Forrest and her students, they have had numerous high school and college students fill out surveys indicating their understanding of police interrogations as well as their level of experience in dealing with the police. Forrest said that most often the respondents were more familiar with the physical environment of the interrogations than the procedural process.

“When people think about a police interrogation, the first thing that comes to mind is the environment. These are not inaccurate perceptions, it’s a small room with a one-way mirror or no mirror at all, there is a chair and a table, it’s not supposed to be comfortable,” Forrest said. “It didn’t surprise me that people think of these things on a consistent basis, what did surprise me is that they weren’t thinking about other things, such as Miranda rights.”

Forrest believes that media content has played some role in shaping the often inaccurate perceptions held in regard to police interrogations. With this thought in mind Forrest and her students have began studying a number of episodes from the past 20 seasons of the popular NBC television series "Law & Order."

“I commend 'Law & Order' for being reflective of what’s happening legally in society,” Forrest said, explaining that as the show has evolved, so too have the interrogations featured on the crime drama. “In some of the very first episodes the interrogations are shorter, rougher, less likely to talk about Miranda rights and they border the line of what we consider legal and illegal.”

Forrest credits "Law & Order" for producing more recent episodes tackling the subject of false confessions as the show has progressed over time. “They’ve actually dealt with the issues of false confession and police coercion in later episodes, which they didn’t do in their earlier episodes,” Forrest said.

Forrest cites unfair questioning as another interrogation strategy which may trigger a false confession. The example provided by Forrest was the hypothetical question: “If you were going to do it, how would you do it?”

Forrest explained that when a suspect begins to lay out a possible scenario they will almost inevitably get a few details right. “Humans aren’t that creative, there are only so many ways that you can stab someone, there are only so many ways you can hang someone. They’re going to say something that fits.”

Forrest credits her students for their assistance in the research she has presented. “I couldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for my students. They work so hard, and they’re so dedicated to accomplishing the research they do with me for the Undergraduate Research Fellowship program."

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