Perhaps the most pivotal phase of a crime, more so than the arrest or trial by jury, is the police interrogation of a suspect. Using verbal techniques such as psychological coercion, hypothetical scenarios, outright lies and threats, law enforcement officials attempt to pressure guilty parties to admit their wrongdoings.
These techniques are deemed legal, and have been institutionalized for decades as appropriate practices for parsing out the truth in a case. However, the interrogations are so effective, that oftentimes an innocent suspect will end up confessing to a crime he or she did not commit. This can be due to fatigue, ignorance or fear on behalf of those being interrogated.
One such example of this situation is seen in the upcoming documentary “Scenes of a Crime.” Filmmakers Grover Babcock and Blue Hadeagh take a look at the case of Adrian Thomas, a man who was suspected of foul play when his infant son wound up brain dead in a hospital.
Thomas was subjected to two rounds of interrogation, both lasting several hours long. Thomas denied ever harming his son, but police were suspicious due to their injury reports (which the defense later found to be misdiagnosed). Due to this belief, they persisted, and eventually Thomas demonstrated throwing his child against a mattress, which became his official confession. Babcock and Hadeagh focus on the ensuing trial and Thomas’s current situation, but the main focus is on the interrogation itself.
What went wrong for Thomas during the course of questioning? What tactics did the police employ that caused a man to recant his admission of never abusing his child? How can these types of situations be avoided in the future? What is the fate of Adrian Thomas and others like him?
Grover Babcock, one half of the producer-director team behind “Scenes of a Crime,” winner of the Grand Jury Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the Grand Jury Prize at DOC Nyc in the “Viewfinders” section and an IFP Gotham Independent Film Award
Blue Hadeagh, one half of the producer-director team behind “Scenes of a Crime,” winner of the Grand Jury Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the Grand Jury Prize at DOC Nyc in the “Viewfinders” section and an IFP Gotham Independent Film Award