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The Third Degree and the Origins of Psychological Interrogation in the United States

INTERROGATIONS, CONFESSIONS, AND ENTRAPMENT, G. Daniel Lassiter, ed., Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2004

49 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2010  

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: 2004

Abstract

This chapter describes and analyzes third degree interrogation in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. The chapter begins with a detailed description and analysis of the various kinds and types of third degree interrogation, describing both the physical and psychological components of the third degree. Next, the chapter discusses how the ideology and practice of so-called "scientific" lie detection and psychological interrogation came to replace the third degree following the Wickersham Commission's Report in the 1930s. Although the third degree is, for the most part, a relic of the distant past, its demise represents a crucial turning point in the history of American police investigation. To fully understand the evolution, character, and logic of contemporary psychological interrogation practices, it is essential to take a closer look at the history and logic of third degree interrogation in the United States. This chapter argues that modern psychological interrogation grew out of the third degree and, in many ways, has been a response to the excesses, criticisms, and contradictions of third degree interrogation.

Keywords: third degree, police interrogations, Wickersham Commission, law enforcement

Suggested Citation

Leo, Richard A., The Third Degree and the Origins of Psychological Interrogation in the United States (2004). INTERROGATIONS, CONFESSIONS, AND ENTRAPMENT, G. Daniel Lassiter, ed., Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1584932

Richard A. Leo (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

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