Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire: How Deception Is Burning The Criminal Justice System

46 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2021

See all articles by Mckenzie Williamson

Mckenzie Williamson

University of Mississippi, School of Law

Date Written: January 24, 2021


Spoken from the lips of an officer, a little white lie, like a little red match, can create an uncontrollable fire with the power to incinerate the criminal justice system. For decades, police deception has been a pervasive component of interrogations and this has led to high rates of false confessions, public distrust of the police, and has undermined the police as a moral authority. As a result of this police deception, not only are more innocents wrongfully convicted, but the criminal justice system becomes less effective as the public no longer trusts the police enough to cooperate with them or follow their moral path. As such, the Supreme Court has criticized these common practices of police deception, however, it has never prohibited it. This Article argues that not only should police deception in interrogations be prohibited for the harmful outcomes it produces, but it should also be prohibited because it violates the Fifth Amendment as a form of phycological coercion as it psychologically manipulates suspects and overcomes their free will.

After discussing recent research and data that portrays the horrendous effects of police deception, I propose a three-part solution. First, the Supreme Court should prohibit police deception in interrogations through a per se rule. Additionally, current insufficient police trainings should be reformed in both quality and quantity to focus on ethics and morality. Lastly, legislators should statutorily require all interrogations to be videotaped from start to finish to deter deception. While each part of this solution has the potential to remedy the harms of police deception on its own, combining the three would ensure a prompt elimination of the flames set by police deception.

Although some scholars have addressed the problem of deception in interrogations and proposed their own solutions, none have recognized that putting out the fire consuming our criminal justice system in time will require all the government branches to contribute. The fire engulfing the criminal justice system was set by deception and must be extinguished to protect the American people before it is too late.

Keywords: police, deception, interrogations, Constitutional Law, Fifth Amendment, coercion, Miranda v. Arizona, Miranda rights, police reform, videotape, Central Park Five, Innocence Project, Exoneration, false confessions, public distrust, moral authority, wrongful convictions, lying, deceit, admissibility

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K14, K40, K42, K49, K30

Suggested Citation

Williamson, Mckenzie, Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire: How Deception Is Burning The Criminal Justice System (January 24, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Mckenzie Williamson (Contact Author)

University of Mississippi, School of Law ( email )

MS 38677
United States

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