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Detective’s repeating confessions prompt investigation

Pittsburgh has its top detectives, just like any region in the country. They are role models to both the police force and the public at large. They protect the innocent, uphold the law and, generally, are seen as heroes — but as it turns out, some of these aspects may be exaggerated or outright incorrect in some cases. Take the story of a 61-year-old Brooklyn detective. His reputation is tremendous; he is known for garnering confessions from criminals who wouldn’t give other detectives the time of day. How could he excel in areas that no one else could? Well, as it turns out, he may have fabricated those confessions. A review of the 61-year-old’s case load found nearly identical phrasing and linguistic patterns across many of his confessions. In particular, the phrases “you got it right” and “I was there” were common — and in many cases, those exact phrases were used to begin a suspect’s confession. As a result, numerous criminals who were convicted as a result of the detective’s work are now having their convictions reviewed. One “criminal” has since been released from prison. This brings up two important reminders. The first is that, when a suspect is taken into custody and questioned, many people assume that the words that come out of the individual’s mouth are recorded, verbatim, on official police documents. No extra phrases are added; no opinions or implied statements are in there. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes, an officer — either knowingly or unconsciously — can add his or her own lingo or phrasing into the official account of a suspect’s questioning. With that in mind, the second point is to always request a criminal defense lawyer if you are brought into custody for questioning or on formal charges. Invoke your right to silence and await your attorney, who will uphold and protect your rights. Any clerical errors or inconsistencies in the way the police handle your situation could lead to a dismissed case. Source: New York Times, “Several Murder Confessions Taken by Brooklyn Detective Have Similar Language,” Frances Robles, June 12, 2013

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