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Kids, Cops, and Confessions

Inside the Interrogation Room

Barry C. Feld

Publication Year: 2012

Juveniles possess less maturity, intelligence, and competence than adults, heightening their vulnerability in the justice system. For this reason, states try juveniles in separate courts and use different sentencing standards than for adults. Yet, when police bring kids in for questioning, they use the same interrogation tactics they use for adults, including trickery, deception, and lying to elicit confessions or to produce incriminating evidence against the defendants. In Kids, Cops, and Confessions, Barry Feld offers the first report of what actually happens when police question juveniles. Drawing on remarkable data, Feld analyzes interrogation tapes and transcripts, police reports, juvenile court filings and sentences, and probation and sentencing reports, describing in rich detail what actually happens in the interrogation room. Contrasting routine interrogation and false confessions enables police, lawyers, and judges to identify interrogations that require enhanced scrutiny, to adopt policies to protect citizens, and to assure reliability and integrity of the justice system. Feld has produced an invaluable look at how the justice system really works.

Published by: NYU Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I have accumulated many debts and received assistance from many people to write this book. Support from the National Science Foundation #0813807 enabled me to code and analyze the data. I am grateful to Dr. Susan Brodie Haire, Program Director, Law and Social Science, who shepherded this naïf through the NSF bureaucracy. ...

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pp. 1-11

Police interrogation raises complex legal, normative, and policy questions about justice administration and the relationship between the individual and the state. A fundamental tension exists between interests of law enforcement and protecting citizens. How should we structure the criminal process to maintain fair procedures, ...

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1. Interrogating Criminal Suspects: Law on the Books and Law in Action

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pp. 12-34

For three-quarters of a century, the Supreme Court has struggled to find the right balance between needs of law enforcement and protection of individuals during interrogation. The state wants reliable statements that will lead to successful plea, prosecution, and conviction. Citizens have a right to be free from coercive tactics and practices ...

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2. Questioning Juveniles: Law and Developmental Psychology

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pp. 35-59

The Supreme Court has decided more juvenile interrogation cases than any other aspect of juvenile justice administration. Although the Court repeatedly has cautioned trial judges that youthfulness could adversely affect young suspects’ ability to exercise Miranda or to make voluntary statements, it has not mandated special procedures to protect them. ...

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3. To Waive or Not to Waive: That Is the Question

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pp. 60-102

More than four decades ago, Miranda stressed that police secrecy produced a “gap in our knowledge as to what in fact goes on in the interrogation rooms.” That gap persists. We do not know many things about routine felony interrogation. How soon after suspects commit a crime do police question them? ...

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4. Police Interrogation: On the Record

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pp. 103-140

Interrogation is an art, rather than a science. Interviews vary with the personality and style of each investigator and offender, the circumstances of the offense and the evidence available, and the ebb-and-flow of conversations. One officer explained, “You’re taught a technique. And then you build on it. ...

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5. Juveniles Respond to Interrogation: Outcomes and Consequences

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pp. 141-177

This chapter examines how the 285 youths whom police questioned responded to their interrogators. Part I examines how they answered and how much information they provided. It analyzes their demeanor during questioning, how their attitude affected whether they cooperated or resisted, the evidentiary value of statements, ...

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6. Justice by Geography: Context, Race, and Confessions

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pp. 178-227

The same laws — statutes, procedural rules, and court decisions — apply throughout a state. But states decentralize justice administration, and courts function at a county or judicial district level. At the local level, judicial operations vary with social structure and community context and produce justice by geography.1 ...

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7. True and False Confessions: Different Outcomes, Different Processes

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pp. 228-246

No system of justice is foolproof, but when errors occur, the state may convict an innocent person. Juvenile and criminal justice personnel inevitably make mistakes as byproducts of human fallibility or, more rarely, deliberate misconduct. Constitutional safeguards — for example, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, ...

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8. Policy Reforms

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pp. 247-270

The Supreme Court decided Miranda in an empirical vacuum because researchers and nonpolice observers lacked access to interrogation rooms. Four decades later, police still control admission, and we have few studies of a low-visibility but outcome-determinative stage of criminal and juvenile justice. ...

Appendix 1: Data and Methodology

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pp. 271-281

Appendix 2: Where the Girls Are

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pp. 282-288


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pp. 289-312


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pp. 313-332


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pp. 333-340

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About the Author

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pp. 341

Barry C. Feld is Centennial Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota and author or editor of many books, including The Oxford Handbook of Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice, Cases and Materials on Juvenile Justice Administration, and Bad Kids: Race and the Transformation of the Juvenile Court. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814770467
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814770467
Print-ISBN-10: 0814727778

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Juvenile justice, Administration of -- United States.
  • Police questioning -- United States.
  • Juvenile delinquents -- United States.
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