Thompson and his murder cases have been featured prominently on the popular A&E reality show The First 48. The show’s premise is that officers’ chances of solving a murder are “cut in half if they don’t get a lead within the first 48 hours.”
Thompson, a former Army captain who served in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm, was suspicious of Lord almost from the beginning. She alleged in her lawsuit, filed almost three years ago, that he lied about certain evidence while ignoring other evidence that was favorable to her.
One of Thompson’s former colleagues in the homicide unit testified against him during the trial. Kim Sanders, who retired from the Police Department in 2008 after more than 30 years, told the jury he believed Lord was innocent based on his review of the evidence. He also questioned Thompson’s tactics while questioning Lord shortly after her boyfriend died.
In a video of the interrogation, Thompson asks Lord basic questions about what happened that night. He then explodes without warning into a rage and screams accusations at Lord, telling her over and over that she is lying and that he knows she killed Burnside.
During one of the more dramatic moments of the trial, Thompson’s lawyer acknowledged fearing that the jury could be swayed by a video of that intense interrogation. The lawyer, Jason Schuette, looked at Lord and told her he didn’t think she killed Burnside.
About the interrogation, Sanders said the interview amounted to intimidation and called the tone and line of questioning a “formula for a false confession.”
[Lord's lawyer Don] Tittle told jurors during his closing arguments that a verdict for his client would curb police abuses and reduce the chances of someone being arrested for murder when the evidence isn’t there.As Grits noted on Wednesday, to me it wasn't just Thompson on trial but the Reid technique of interrogation, whose central tenets were on display in Lord's interrogation video: Intimidation, accusation, psychological manipulation, lying about evidence, cutting off denials ... these methods are taught to police interrogators across the country and, as Mr. Sanders told the jury, amount to a "formula for a false confession."
The Reid technique was developed to fill a void in the years after "third-degree" interrogation tactics were banned, using psychological manipulation rather than physical force to coerce interrogations but based on a similar approach. The US Supreme Court's famous Miranda warning was instituted in part as a (insufficient) buttress against the method's coercive tactics.
Ironically, one of the most prominent cases on which Det. John Reid, its creator who built a consulting empire around the approach, built his reputation in the 1950s resulted in a false confession that wasn't exposed until the poor forester, Darrel Parker, was exonerated and released in 1991. "In August 2012, the state of Nebraska issued a declaration of innocence to Parker and agreed to pay him $500,000. Attorney General Jon Bruning publicly declared that Parker was wrongly convicted and apologized."
In the U.K. and several other countries, the Reid technique has been abandoned in favor of a less confrontational method focused more on gathering information than extracting a confession. Dubbed the PEACE technique, the name is a mnemonic for Preparation and Planning; Engage and Explain; Account, Clarify and Challenge; Closure; and Evaluation. In the United States, though, the Reid method reigns supreme.
One reason police have resisted requirements to record interrogations - despite the superior evidential value of recordings in court - is that Reid methods often appear coercive and prejudicial to an outside viewer. That's because they are. When they're employed against a guilty suspect, people don't tend to care. But when they're employed against the innocent, they undermine the credibility of the investigation and the investigator. And in the case of Hephzibah Olivia Lord, a Dallas jury decided that, coupled with her false arrest, it violated her civil rights.
RELATED: From Texas Monthly, "How to get a teenager to admit to a crime he didn't commit."