Police Interrogation and American Justice

Richard A. Leo, Police Interrogation and American Justice (Harvard University Press 2008)

329 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2013

See all articles by Richard A. Leo

Richard A. Leo

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: 2008


This book is a comprehensive empirical study of police interrogation in America. The author examines the history of interrogation in America from the extreme “third degree” techniques employed in the early twentieth century to the professional reforms of the mid-twentieth century. The author argues that American police interrogation is strategically manipulative and deceptive because it occurs in the context of a fundamental contradiction. On the one hand, police need incriminating statements and admissions to solve crimes. On the other hand, there is almost never a good reason for suspects to provide them. As a result, law enforcement personnel rely on interrogation methods based on fraud, psychological manipulation, and impression management to elicit confession evidence that will lead to convictions. The author argues that this fundamental contradiction of American police interrogation is not likely to go away unless the structure of the adversarial criminal justice system changes or we fashion alternative means of solving crimes that lessen the need for confession evidence. The author also analyzes causes and consequences of interrogation-induced false confessions in America, and the wrongful convictions they sometimes produce. Finally, the author reviews and analyzes a number of policy reforms for achieving the ideals of American justice.

The downloadable document includes the entire book: Introduction; Chapter 1: Police Interrogation and the American Adversary System; Chapter 2: The Third Degree; Chapter 3: Professionalizing Police Interrogation; Chapter 4: The Structure and Psychology of American Police Interrogation; Chapter 5: Constructing Culpability; Chapter 6: False Confessions; Chapter 7: Miscarriages of Justice; Chapter 8: Policy Directions; and Conclusion.

Keywords: police interrogation, wrongful conviction, false confession, criminal law, criminal procedure, criminal justice

Suggested Citation

Leo, Richard A., Police Interrogation and American Justice (2008). Richard A. Leo, Police Interrogation and American Justice (Harvard University Press 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2243909

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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