You Have the Right to Remain Innocent by James Duane

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent by James Duane is a 154-page nonfiction book/set of essays scheduled for publication by Little A in September 2016. I received the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

You Have the Right to Remain Innocent coverThroughout the book, James Duane explores why someone–especially someone innocent–should never talk to the police (and instead should repeat “I want a lawyer”). The content of the book is a bit dry–he uses case histories of people who have been wrongfully convicted or have given false confessions. But Duane livens up the content with some excerpts from his lecture, “Don’t Talk to Police.”

My favorite excerpt is an exercise where Duane outlines a fictional crime report and then asks four questions about the report. I only got three of the four questions right, and I can absolutely see how hours of misleading questions and interrogation might drive someone to (mistakenly or not) give false information in a criminal investigation. I was astounded at some of the case examples and the examples of how incredibly vague many federal statutes are, allowing for much interpretation in court.

Though there were few humorous moments in the book, I liked that the overall tone was outrage and disbelief–at how efficient the police are at dragging confessions out of innocent people (false confessions aplenty), at the precedent set of holding a defendant’s use of their Fifth Amendment rights against them as evidence of guilt, and at the broken state of USA’s legal system in general. However, Duane does get a little overzealous at times, using plenty of exclamation points and calling large groups of people morons and idiots.

After watching Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” (true crime docuseries about Steven Avery’s wrongful conviction for sexual assault and, upon release from prison, near-immediate conviction for murder), reading You Have the Right to Remain Innocent was especially gratifying. For any who haven’t seen the series, the point is made that the police used coercive and appalling interrogation technique’s on Avery’s 16-year-old nephew. This book discusses at length the ways police are allowed to lie to the public about investigations in order to “catch” someone in a lie, which follows up incredibly well on the outrage of watching “Making a Murderer.”

Granted, I work with administrative rules (which implement federal statute) for a living, but I think that anyone who enjoys true crime stories, anyone who wonders why false confessions happen, anyone who’s interested in finding out what happens when you voluntarily enter a police station as a suspect in a criminal investigation, or anyone who thinks that if you are innocent you have nothing to hide would both learn from and enjoy this book.

TITLE: You Have the Right to Remain Innocent
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AUTHOR: James Duane
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PAGES: 154
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ALSO WROTE: Various scholarly publications, “Don’t Talk to Police”
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FIRST LINE: In the past five years, I have spoken dozens of times to thousands of individuals around the United States about the right to remain silent.
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FAVORITE LINE: But the federal trial judge, and later the court of appeals, overlooked that [police officer’s] deception because they felt the defendant should have known from prior experience with the criminal justice system that the police cannot be trusted, and that “there were limits on the authority of detectives to bring lesser charges or offer a shortened sentence.”

BONUS LINE: When the federal agent was advised that my client would not talk to him unless he was willing to put his questions in writing, he angrily replied that he refused to interview anybody that way, and she has not heard from him in months.

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