On Wednesday, the Ohio State chapter of the Ohio Innocence Project hosted Steven Drizin, the post-conviction attorney for Brendan Dassey, one of the subjects of the Netflix series “Making A Murderer.” Drizin spoke about types of psychological techniques law enforcement can use during interrogations to produce false confessions.
Dassey, the nephew of Steven Avery, whom the series revolves around, is believed by some to have been coerced into confessing to aiding in the 2005 kidnapping, rape and murder of Teresa Halbach by officers trying to connect physical evidence found at the scene to a plausible narrative. Dassey has been incarcerated since his confession at age 16, and will not be eligible for parole until 2048, unless his conviction is overturned.
Drizin said Dassey’s situation is one that anyone could find themselves in, regardless of their level of intelligence or privilege.
“I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter if you’re highly intelligent or if you’re of low intelligence, everybody has their breaking point and you or I can be made to falsely confess under the right circumstances,” Drizin said. “The reality is that when you look at the whole numbers of false confessions, about a third of them involve young people, about a third of them involve people with mental disabilities or mental illness, and a third of them are just like you and me,” Drizin said.
In a presentation using the videos of Dassey’s interrogations, Drizin broke down the different processes that can set up circumstances that could result in a false confession, which included psychological techniques such as “misclassification,” “coercion” and “contamination.”
Misclassification occurs when, during an open-ended interview, the police sense the innocent person is guilty, usually based on behavioral or verbal cues, Drizin said. From there, they begin the more accusatory interrogation process.