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An observational study of interview characteristics and "Miranda" in juvenile interrogations

Dissertation
Author: Hayley Marie Daglis Cleary
Abstract:
Police interrogation is a critical yet understudied social context in which juvenile suspects must make vitally important legal decisions, often without the aid of a parent or attorney. Despite the potentially grave consequences such decisions may yield, we know surprisingly little about this unique context. Social science lacks even basic descriptive information about the interrogation setting and its participants. While empirical interest in police interrogation has indeed surged in recent years, most research examines the interrogation-related capacities that suspects bring into the interrogation room or involves adult suspects only. Given the myriad developmentally based vulnerabilities youth exhibit via laboratory- and self report-based methods, interrogation research focused on adolescent suspects is imperative. Moreover, observational methods are a critical first step in creating a descriptive foundation upon which future juvenile interrogation research may build. The present study addresses these existing gaps by providing detailed descriptive data about juvenile interrogation procedures, participants, and outcomes. It is the first of its kind to examine electronically recorded police interrogations of juvenile suspects from jurisdictions across the United States using digital coding technology. Fifty-seven electronic recordings from 17 police agencies were coded to yield fundamental descriptive information about officer and suspect characteristics, third party presence, situational characteristics, Miranda delivery and readability, Miranda waiver, and interrogation outcome. Results indicate that juvenile suspects waived their Miranda rights in 90% of cases. The average juvenile interrogation lasted approximately one hour and was conducted by one or two (typically white male) interrogators. The typical juvenile suspect was a middle-adolescent white or black male accused of a serious person or property crime. A parent was present in 20% of interrogations and a defense attorney was present in no cases. Readability of the Miranda warning language, as measured by two prevalent indices, fell into the "fairly easy" range or at approximately a seventh grade reading level. This work was predicated on the notion that given the dearth of research on juvenile interrogations, a descriptive approach is paramount. It is hoped that the descriptive data presented here will provide a rich empirical foundation on which future inferential work may be structured.

T ABLE OF C ONTENTS

Introduction......................................................................................................................1 Why Study Interrogation? ...............................................................................................2 Why Study Juveniles Separately? ...................................................................................8 Characteristics of Juvenile Interrogations .....................................................................14 Juveniles and Miranda ..................................................................................................19 The Advantages of Observational Methods ..................................................................24 Research Design and Methods.......................................................................................26 Recruitment....................................................................................................................26 Participants.....................................................................................................................29 Interview Eligibility Criteria..........................................................................................29 Data Preparation.............................................................................................................32 Coding Procedures.........................................................................................................34 Coding Scheme..............................................................................................................37 Training and Reliability.................................................................................................42 Special Protections.........................................................................................................43 Results............................................................................................................................44 Characteristics of Juvenile Interrogations......................................................................45 Miranda in Juvenile Interrogations................................................................................53 Discussion......................................................................................................................70 Individual Factors..........................................................................................................71 Contextual Factors.........................................................................................................79 Miranda Delivery...........................................................................................................83 Miranda Comprehension and Waiver............................................................................90 Miranda Readability......................................................................................................96

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Limitations...................................................................................................................100 Conclusions..................................................................................................................102 Appendix A: Recruitment Letter to Police Agencies..................................................105 Appendix B: Consent Form.........................................................................................108 References....................................................................................................................113

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L IST OF T ABLES

Table 1: Characteristics of Participating Agencies......................................................128
 Table 2: Characteristics of Juvenile Suspects..............................................................129
 Table 3: Combinations of Persons Present in Juvenile Interrogations........................130


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I NTRODUCTION

The empirical study of police interrogation is an emergent science. The vast majority of work has been published in the last 25 years, with a few notable exceptions (e.g., Ferguson & Douglas, 1970; Grisso, 1981). The extant literature focuses largely on a few key elements of the interrogation process: deception (Kassin & Fong, 1999; Skolnick & Leo, 1992), lie detection (Vrij, 2008), confessions/false confessions (Drizin & Colgan, 2004; Kassin & Gudjonsson, 2004; Kassin & Kiechel, 1996; Redlich & Goodman, 2003), electronic recording of interrogations (Drizin & Colgan, 2001; Lassiter, Geers, Handley, Weiland, & Munhall, 2002; Sullivan, 2005), comprehension of the Miranda warnings (Abramovitch, Higgins-Biss, & Biss, 1993; Grisso, 1981), and waiver of Miranda rights (Feld, 2006a; Grisso, 1981). Before proceeding any further, it may be helpful to clarify the meaning of interrogation and describe its standard procedures. In both policy and practice, the term interrogation is often used interchangeably with interview to refer to police questioning of suspects in connection with an alleged crime. However, the terms carry different legal implications for both police procedures and the rights of suspects. The Reid Technique of police interrogation, perhaps the most well known and widely used training manual for interrogators, describes interviews as non-accusatory conversations between officers and individuals that primarily serve an information gathering purpose (Inbau, Reid, Buckley, & Jayne, 2001). Interrogations, by contrast, are carefully

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contrived social interactions in which officers confront suspects with accusations of guilt with the goal of inducing incriminating admissions or confessions from the suspect (Inbau et al., 2001). An interview may become an interrogation at any time, and the point at which this transition occurs is not always clear. Largely to blame for this and other interrogation-related ambiguities is the so- called gap problem—“the gap between how law is written in the books and how it is actually practiced by legal actors in the social world” (Leo, 1996, p. 266). Though the gap problem bedevils many issues of law, police interrogation is a particularly susceptible legal context because of the privacy and exigency inherent in the process. The Supreme Court acknowledged the “innate secrecy of such proceedings” when it required police to administer pre-interrogation Miranda warnings 1 regarding custodial suspects’ constitutional rights (Miranda v. Arizona, 1966). The extent to which the gap problem is manifest in police interrogation is unknown; rigorous, innovative social science research on the subject is therefore imperative. Why Study Interrogation? There are numerous legal and procedural incentives to better understand the interrogation process. First, police hold tremendous influence over the fate of a criminal or delinquency case. Officers may arrest, detain, or release individuals based

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These constitutionally guaranteed rights are 1) the right to remain silent, 2) the right to avoid self- incrimination (i.e., any statements may be used against a suspect in court), 3) the right to consult with counsel before and during interrogation, and 4) the right to court-appointed counsel if indigent.

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(among other things) on the information they provide during questioning. Police decide whom to question about a crime as well as where, when, and how to conduct questioning in order to obtain accurate and complete information. Police discretion, as termed by the literature, is a catch-all phrase used to describe “two proximate elements: the degree and the ways in which characteristics of people (both officer and citizen) and situations influence police actions” as well as more distal but also influential elements of police infrastructure (e.g., department policies; leadership hierarchies) that impact police decision making (Skogan & Frydl, 2003, p. 110). The bulk of police discretion literature focuses on the decision to arrest; no known study to date has examined discretion within the interrogation context (J. Shafer, personal communication, December 14, 2009). More research is needed to understand how the state-vested police powers of arrest and apprehension manifest in the interrogation context. Second, research demonstrates that confession evidence is extremely powerful (Drizin & Leo, 2004; Kassin & Gudjonsson, 2004; Kassin & Wrightsman, 1980; Leo & Ofshe, 1998). Drizin and Leo (2004) characterized confession evidence as “inherently prejudicial and highly damaging to a defendant, even if it is the product of coercive interrogation, even if it is supported by no other evidence, and even if it is ultimately proven false beyond any reasonable doubt” (p. 959). Laboratory studies report a stronger impact of confession evidence on mock jurors’ guilty verdicts relative

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to eyewitness and character testimony (Kassin & Neumann, 1997), regardless of whether the confession is perceived as voluntary or coerced (Kassin & Sukel, 1997). Mock jurors appear simply unable to discount confession evidence, even when explicitly instructed to do so (Kassin & Wrightsman, 1980, 1981). Moreover, confessions are typically introduced into evidence via police officials’ testimony in court, and police—indeed, people in general—are often quite confident in their abilities to accurately evaluate confessions. Studies comparing police officers to mock-juror college students found that police exhibit consistently higher confidence in their assessments of the truthfulness of observed confessions; this result held true not only for laboratory-generated confessions but also confessions from prison inmates (Kassin, Meissner, & Norwick, 2005). The power of confession evidence is not relegated to juror verdicts, however; a suspect’s confession or incriminating admission may introduce bias throughout the duration of his legal case. Kassin and Gudjonsson (2004) observed that “confessions tend to overwhelm other information, such as alibis and other evidence of innocence, resulting in a chain of adverse legal consequences—from arrest through guilty pleas, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration” (p. 57). Since police are trained to presume interrogation suspects’ guilt (Inbau et al., 2001; otherwise it would be an interview), confirmation biases may induce them to overlook or discount exculpatory information and continue the interrogation until a suspect has confessed. Suspects’ statements in

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the interrogation room can even affect the specific charges the prosecuting attorney will file. For example, if a suspect is charged with murder but confesses that the incident was actually a robbery gone wrong, the prosecutor may add robbery charges in addition to the murder charge (W. Jarvis, personal communication, May 7, 2009). In short, the decision to confess during interrogation may be the single most consequential legal decision a suspect will make. Third, because of the aforementioned “gap problem,” interrogation is a legal context that may inadvertently give rise to due process violations or other procedural justice concerns. Due to the “innate secrecy of such proceedings” (Miranda v. Arizona, 1966, p. 532), the Supreme Court has historically acknowledged the impossibility of transparency in police interrogations and has accordingly imposed restrictions on police behavior and interrogation procedures. For example, police are not allowed to make explicit threats or promises (Bram v. United States, 1897), and physical force has long been prohibited (Brown v. Mississippi, 1936). Though the incidence of such behaviors cannot be determined, it is unlikely that overt police misconduct is a serious concern. Instead, the question of potential due process violations may be more relevant to routine interrogation procedures that are ill-defined in case law and policy. For example, the Miranda decision stipulated that police must administer pre- interrogation warnings before custodial questioning may commence (Miranda v.

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Arizona, 1966). However, an officer’s act of taking a suspect into custody, as well as suspects’ perceptions of being in custody, are not always clear. Police custody is not equivalent to questioning occurring at the police station; both interviews and interrogations can occur on the street, at the scene of the incident, in the suspect’s home, or at the police station. Nor is custody always equivalent to handcuffs or even arrest; whether an interviewee is in police custody for the purposes of Miranda is determined by circumstances surrounding the questioning. In Thompson v. Keohane (1995) the Supreme Court articulated an objective test for custody determinations that evaluates 1) the circumstances surrounding the interrogation and 2) whether a reasonable person in such circumstances would have felt at liberty to leave. Thus, custodial questioning can occur before arrest if the interviewee perceives that his freedom of action is restrained in a considerable manner and his perception is confirmed by a later legal determination. The Court buttressed the objective nature of custody tests in Yarborough v. Alvarado (2004) when it ruled that officers need not consider suspects’ age or prior law enforcement experience when determining custody for Miranda purposes, as these are individual characteristics whose influence on perceived custody are subjective. In short, the custodial context in which a suspect chooses to answer an officer’s questions is one example of a procedural gray area resulting from inadequate knowledge about routine interrogations. By learning more

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about ordinary interrogation procedures, we can guard against potential due process violations that may inadvertently arise as a function of those procedures. Social science also stands to gain much from the empirical study of police interrogation. Cognitive psychologists, for example, have long heralded the role of context in human judgment and decision making (Kahneman, 1991). The effects on judgment of environmental and individual factors such as stress (Hammond, 2000), time pressure (Svenson & Maule, 1993), affect (Loewenstein & Lerner, 2003), fatigue (Baranski, 2007), and mental illness (Kazdin, 2000)—as well as their interaction effects—are well explored. Researchers have already applied psychological concepts to legal settings, exploring the role of cognition in legal decision making among jurors (e.g., Weinstock & Flaton, 2004) and judges (Bursztajn, Hamm, & Gutheil, 1997). However, cognitive psychology has yet to investigate decision making in the interrogation context—a notable gap in the literature, given the legally consequential nature of interrogation decisions. Social psychologists, by contrast, may approach police interrogation as a social interaction in which two or more individuals with conflicting goals and disparate information vie for ascendancy in an environment (presumably) controlled by one party: the interrogator. Interrogation has been described as “a process of social influence…a theory-driven social interaction led by an authority figure who holds a strong a priori belief about the target and who measures success by the ability to

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extract an admission from that target” (Kassin & Gudjonsson, 2004, p. 41). Interrogation strategies, procedures, and environments are structured so as to maximize the imbalance of power between interrogator and suspect (Inbau et al., 2001). Interrogators are trained to exploit the power of their position and of the situation to obtain information from even the most recalcitrant suspects. The Miranda Court observed that “the very fact of custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty and trades on the weakness of individuals” (Miranda v. Arizona, 1966, p. 455). Social science has yet to fully explore the mechanisms by which police obtain information from suspects, particularly to identify which strategies are more coercive, benign, and/or successful than others. Were such strategies ascertained, researchers and law enforcement could collaborate to develop best practices for interrogations that elicit accurate, complete information while simultaneously observing suspects’ constitutional rights. Why Study Juveniles Separately? Several important variations in legal and procedural interrogation requirements suggest that juveniles experience the interrogation process differently from adults. Police jurisdictions at the state and local level may vary substantially with regard to booking, intake 2 , Miranda warning language, and parental notification, presence or

2

Intake refers to the juvenile justice system’s decision to proceed with formal prosecution or divert the youth’s case to a program outside the juvenile justice system.

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consent during interrogation (Feld, 2006a). For example, several states use a simplified form of the Miranda warnings with underage suspects. Others require an interested adult’s 3 presence for interrogation of younger juveniles (McGuire, 2000). Such variations reflect the larger panoply of state juvenile justice policies governing routine handling of youth in the system. In fact, commentators have eschewed comparisons of “the” juvenile justice system to the criminal justice system, noting more accurately that there are “51 separate juvenile justice systems in this country” with which to contend (King, 2006, p. 1; see also Steinberg & Schwartz, 2000). States also differ on the constitutional measures used to determine the validity of juveniles’ Miranda waivers. The Supreme Court has not mandated any special procedural protections for juvenile suspects during this process (Feld, 2006a), and most states use the adult “totality of the circumstances” standard (Fare v. Michael C., 1979) in which judges are required to consider all material circumstances, including the suspect’s age, intelligence, background, and capacity to understand his constitutional rights as well as situational factors such as length and method of interrogation (Feld, 2000). A select few states, however, have imposed more rigorous standards for waiver assessments that require certain conditions to be met, usually involving the presence of an interested adult. “Per se” rules presume that a juvenile’s waiver is invalid unless an

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Parameters for who qualifies as an “interested adult” vary by state and are partially delineated by case law (Oberlander, Goldstein, & Goldstein, 2003), but in general, state policies stipulate that the party be interested (i.e., vested in the youth’s legal best interest) and an adult (i.e., not a legal minor; Commonwealth v. Guyton, 1989). Interested adults are usually parents, guardians, or adult relatives.

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interested adult is present and active in the juvenile’s decision to waive his Miranda rights (Feld, 2000). In some states per se rules are tiered, holding different presumptions of waiver validity for younger versus older youth (Krzewinski, 2002). In short, youth in different localities most likely experience different interrogation procedures due to states’ variable juvenile justice policies, whereas the policies governing adult interrogations are generally similar across jurisdictions. Procedural variations aside, perhaps the most compelling reasons to study juvenile interrogations separately from adult interrogations are the well-documented developmental differences that differentiate youth from adults intellectually, psychosocially, and emotionally as a matter of normative developmental patterns. Adolescents, for example, are less risk-averse than adults. They engage in risky behaviors more frequently than adults (Eaton et al., 2006; Reyna & Farley, 2006; Steinberg, 2005), including unprotected sex (Hoff, Greene, & Davis, 2003), illicit drug experimentation (Chambers, Taylor, & Potenza, 2003), and criminal conduct (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). When making choices about risks they orient more toward opportunities for gains than toward protection against losses (Gardner & Herman, 1990). Additionally, adolescents place more emphasis than adults on the negative consequences of not engaging in risky behaviors (Beyth-Marom, Austin, Fischhoff, Palmgren, & Jacobs-Quadrel, 1993), such that the social risk of peer disapproval

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associated with desisting from a delinquent act may outweigh the legal risk associated with getting caught. More recent work emphasizes the role of context in adolescents’ decision making about risk. In essence, under highly controlled laboratory conditions, adolescents are equally capable as adults of making rational choices about risk (Steinberg, 2004). However, “in practice, much depends on the particular situation in which a decision is made….on the spur of the moment, in unfamiliar situations, when trading off risks and benefits favors bad long-term outcomes, and when behavioral inhibition is required for good outcomes, adolescents are likely to reason more poorly than adults do” (Reyna & Farley, 2006, p. 1). A host of factors have been implicated for this contextual effect, from biologically driven novelty-seeking behavior (Spear, 2000) to incomplete capacities for self-regulation (Steinberg, 2004). These situational circumstances are precisely the sort that adolescents face during interrogation. Juvenile suspects likely find themselves in an unfamiliar environment in which short- term benefits (e.g., getting to “go home”) appear extremely appealing, even if they result in poor decisions (e.g., waiving Miranda rights, confession) that disserve the youth’s long-term legal best interest. A second developmental difference between youth and adults concerns youths’ foreshortened time perspective. It is well established that adolescents are more present-oriented than adults (Steinberg & Scott, 2003). They accord more weight to

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the short-term consequences of decisions (both risks and rewards) and are more likely to discount the future (Gardner & Herman, 1990; Reyna & Farley, 2006). For example, adolescents in one decision making study were less likely than adults to consider options for medical treatment, risks related to medical treatment, and long term consequences associated with medical decisions (Halpern-Felsher & Cauffman, 2001). It has been suggested that foreshortened time perspective may be domain specific (Grisso, 2000), such that research on youths’ time perspective in particular legal contexts such as interrogation is advised. Adolescents in the interrogation room may be disproportionately influenced by foreshortened time perspective, particularly with regard to Miranda waiver and confession. They may comply with interrogators’ requests to whatever extent necessary for them to be released, even to their legal detriment. Grisso (1981) empirically demonstrated this tendency when he asked a delinquent youth sample to describe the consequences of waiving one’s right to silence when questioned by police. The consequence mentioned most frequently was the police’s immediate response (i.e., police will let youth “go home” if they talk). Moreover, the study reported an age by intelligence interaction, such that among youth with IQ scores below 80, those ages 14 and younger were especially likely to focus on short-term consequences (Grisso, 1981). A more recent study also reported less awareness of long-term consequences for youth under 14 (Grisso et al., 2003).

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Extreme examples of this phenomenon have been cited anecdotally in documented false confession cases. In 1998, twelve-year-old Anthony Harris was implicated in the disappearance and murder of his five-year-old neighbor because of his proximity to the location where the girl’s body was discovered (Drizin & Colgan, 2004). After mounting pressure from police, Anthony (falsely) confessed to stabbing the child seven times. When later asked why he confessed, Anthony stated, “I just felt like I was in a maze. I couldn’t find my way out….if I said I did it, I’ll go home. That’s what I thought” (Drizin & Colgan, 2004, p. 137). While cases like Anthony’s are typically discussed in reference to improper police interrogation techniques and coerced confessions, it is important to consider how developmental factors endogenous to adolescence can also contribute to inaccurate interrogation outcomes. In fact, given that the base rate of false confessions as a percentage of all police-youth questioning is probably extremely low, the more pressing question may be whether and how time perspective impacts youth decision making in routine police interrogations and whether or not the effects are greater for youth compared to adults. A third distinguishing feature of adolescence involves a greater propensity to comply with requests from authority figures. Though data are limited, several studies report age-based differences in interrogation-related compliance. In a recent large- scale study with both incarcerated and community populations, youth ages 15 and younger were more likely to comply with vignette requests from police and attorneys

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than older adolescents and young adults (Grisso et al., 2003). When presented with a specific interrogation scenario including options to a) confess to the offense, b) deny the offense or c) refuse to talk, nearly 60% of youth in the youngest age category (11- 13 years) chose confession as the “best choice,” compared to only 20% of young adults (18-24 years) (Grisso et al., 2003). Results did not vary across ethnicity, gender, or detained/community status. Redlich and Goodman (2003) employed the famed alt-key paradigm (Kassin & Kiechel, 1996) in the first and only laboratory study of juvenile false confessions. All participants were accused of pressing the alt-key and asked to sign a confession; half were presented with “false evidence” of their guilt (a computer printout showing all keys pressed). The authors reported that compliance rates for signing the (untrue) statement decreased with age and were as high as 78% for 12- to 13-year-olds (Redlich & Goodman, 2003). While the experiment hardly approximates the tangible pressures of actual interrogations—ethically and practically unavailable in field studies or laboratories—it does corroborate Grisso and colleagues’ (2003) findings that youth are more likely to comply with requests from authority and that compliant legal decision making is not relegated to particular ethnicities or social classes. Characteristics of Juvenile Interrogations Despite increasing empirical attention to this issue, we still know remarkably little about what actually occurs when police question suspects (Feld, 2006b; Redlich

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et al., 2004). Leo (1996) noted, “law professors, lawyers, and law students have created a formidable law review literature that focuses almost entirely on the doctrinal and ethical aspects of interrogation and confession case law, rather than on the routine activities of legal actors and institutions” (p. 267). Social science has been equally remiss in studying routine police interrogations. Though we have learned a great deal about interrogation-related capacities as well as interrogation decision making in laboratory settings, we lack fundamental descriptive data about routine police questioning of adults or juveniles. In the four decades since the Miranda decision was handed down, only a handful of studies in the United States 4 have employed observational methods to document actual interrogations and only two of those are contemporary. Leo (1996) observed 122 live interrogations and 60 videotaped interrogations for his descriptive study of adult suspects in several California police departments. His analysis reported, for the first time in the literature, key descriptive variables about the interrogation context and its participants: race, class, gender, prior record, Miranda waiver/invocation, and interrogation length and outcome, among others. He reported that a white male primary detective conducted most interrogations at the police station,

4

Researchers in Great Britain have made tremendous strides in documenting interrogation phenomena in the last 25 years, as Great Britain passed the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act of 1984 that required police to record all interrogations. However, British studies are not discussed here because of the substantial differences between U.S. and English law as well as presumed differences in policing procedures, public perceptions of police, and population characteristics.

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sometimes accompanied by a second detective (31% of cases, also typically a white male; Leo, 1996). The typical suspect was a young, black, working-class male accused of a person crime (81% of cases) or property crime (19%). More than three-fourths of the suspects in his samples waived their Miranda rights and agreed to speak with police. Notably, he also recorded the frequency and type of interrogation techniques detectives used to elicit confessions. Leo’s (1996) study greatly advanced the interrogation literature because it employed observational methods to illuminate what has traditionally been a highly veiled social context. His work correctly underscores the need to examine routine police procedures—as opposed to “leading cases…which are unrepresentative of the larger universe of court cases and thus may depict atypical police practices as the norm” (p. 267)—in order to better understand everyday interrogation practices. Despite its considerable contribution to the field, the study does raise concerns about observer bias since the interrogators were aware of the researcher’s presence, though the author addresses this with care (Leo, 1996). A second disadvantage is that by observing interrogations contemporaneously, the researcher gets only a single pass at coding an extensive array of variables. Interrogations are rarely unambiguous in every respect, and making extemporaneous judgments about highly complex social interactions is challenging. Nonetheless, Leo’s remarkable (1996) work begs replication in other jurisdictions.

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Feld’s (2006a) observational study identified the 66 juvenile cases from the pool of all juvenile cases in one Minnesota jurisdiction during a seven-year period that contained either videotaped interrogations or interrogation transcripts. 5 His sample included 16- to 18-year-old felony suspects, just over half of which (52%) were accused of person crimes. In addition to many of the variables Leo (1996) examined, this study also coded interrogators’ strategies to predispose youth to waive Miranda as well as youths’ positive or negative responses to interrogation. Like Leo’s (1996) sample, most of these suspects were minority males whom Feld (2006a) characterized as a “criminally sophisticated group of delinquents” due to the substantial proportion with prior felony arrests or juvenile court referrals (p. 69). Eighty percent of juvenile suspects waived their Miranda rights and consented to police questioning. Most (88%) were arrested prior to questioning and nearly all (95%) of interrogations occurred in a custodial physical setting (e.g., detention center or police station). To date, Feld’s (2006a) sample of 66 juvenile felony cases provides the only existing data drawn from actual juvenile interrogations. Its sampling strategy attenuates selection bias by drawing a complete sample from a single jurisdiction over a substantial time period. However, in any given jurisdiction, a host of variables (measured or unmeasured) may be particular to that community, including suspect demographic characteristics, youth orientation toward law enforcement, police

5

Transcripts and videotaped interrogations were not analyzed separately .

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attitudes, law enforcement interviewer training, and state or local juvenile justice policies. Moreover, much of Feld’s (2006b) extensive reporting on youth attitudes, demeanor, and behavior during interrogation is secondhand, drawn largely from interviewer notes accompanying interrogation transcripts. Noting the necessity of using subjective judgment, he writes: Fortunately, police write detailed notes, and about half their reports included officers’ impressions and comments about juveniles’ demeanor and behavior. Officers reported whether they believed suspects told the truth or lied; indicated whether they cooperated or resisted; and described youths’ behavior during questioning. (Feld, 2006b, p. 286). Certainly, any form of naturalistic study requires the researcher to make impressionistic judgments about the target of investigation. Vicariously reporting others’ impressionistic judgments, however, particularly those of nonneutral parties, raises serious concerns about data quality. This is especially pertinent given that a) police (and individuals in general) are notoriously inaccurate at detecting deception (Vrij, 2008), b) no reliability coding was conducted for these (or any) analyses, and c) nearly half of his data were derived from transcripts only. Though Feld’s (2006b) study is momentous step forward in the empirical study of juvenile interrogations, much more research is needed to examine whether its conclusions hold true in other jurisdictions using other methods.

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Juveniles and Miranda A growing body of empirical evidence suggests that adolescents as a group inadequately comprehend the Miranda warnings to a degree that may compromise the validity of their Miranda waiver. Younger adolescents are more likely than older adolescents and adults to demonstrate significant knowledge deficits about the components of the Miranda warning (Abramovitch, Peterson-Badali, & Rohan, 1995; Goldstein, Condie, Kalbeitzer, Osman, & Geier, 2003; Grisso, 1981; Grisso et al., 2003; Viljoen & Roesch, 2005; Woolard et al., 2008), although determinations of what constitutes “sufficient” Miranda understanding vary according to the legal standard being applied (Viljoen et al., 2007). Youth younger than 15 are significantly more impaired than older youth in their understanding and appreciation of the four specific Miranda warnings (Abramovitch et al., 1995; Grisso, 1980; Redlich et al., 2003; Viljoen et al., 2007). Grisso (1981) reported that more than half of juveniles demonstrated inadequate comprehension of at least one of the four Miranda warnings (compared to 23% of adults) and age, race, and IQ were related to Miranda comprehension. These age patterns in impaired Miranda comprehension are not simply a function of lower IQ or lack of justice system experience. Studies generally report that prior justice system experience, typically measured by police contact, arrests, court experience, or convictions, is not a reliable predictor of Miranda comprehension.

Full document contains 139 pages
Abstract: Police interrogation is a critical yet understudied social context in which juvenile suspects must make vitally important legal decisions, often without the aid of a parent or attorney. Despite the potentially grave consequences such decisions may yield, we know surprisingly little about this unique context. Social science lacks even basic descriptive information about the interrogation setting and its participants. While empirical interest in police interrogation has indeed surged in recent years, most research examines the interrogation-related capacities that suspects bring into the interrogation room or involves adult suspects only. Given the myriad developmentally based vulnerabilities youth exhibit via laboratory- and self report-based methods, interrogation research focused on adolescent suspects is imperative. Moreover, observational methods are a critical first step in creating a descriptive foundation upon which future juvenile interrogation research may build. The present study addresses these existing gaps by providing detailed descriptive data about juvenile interrogation procedures, participants, and outcomes. It is the first of its kind to examine electronically recorded police interrogations of juvenile suspects from jurisdictions across the United States using digital coding technology. Fifty-seven electronic recordings from 17 police agencies were coded to yield fundamental descriptive information about officer and suspect characteristics, third party presence, situational characteristics, Miranda delivery and readability, Miranda waiver, and interrogation outcome. Results indicate that juvenile suspects waived their Miranda rights in 90% of cases. The average juvenile interrogation lasted approximately one hour and was conducted by one or two (typically white male) interrogators. The typical juvenile suspect was a middle-adolescent white or black male accused of a serious person or property crime. A parent was present in 20% of interrogations and a defense attorney was present in no cases. Readability of the Miranda warning language, as measured by two prevalent indices, fell into the "fairly easy" range or at approximately a seventh grade reading level. This work was predicated on the notion that given the dearth of research on juvenile interrogations, a descriptive approach is paramount. It is hoped that the descriptive data presented here will provide a rich empirical foundation on which future inferential work may be structured.