Lies, trickery, and deceit are tactics used by detectives interrogating murder suspects, and they were used by officers who interviewed Martin Tankleff of Long Island, N.Y., in 1988 after he called 911 to report finding both his parents stabbed and badly beaten in their home, the New York Times reports. The parents died. Tankleff confessed and was convicted of their murders, and he served 17 years in prison before a state appeals court ruled last Friday that he may have been wrongly convicted, ordering a new trial.
The ruling raised questions about how much deception is too much. “Trickery and deceit are permissible and acceptable when dealing with a suspect in a murder case,” said Vernon Geberth, a former commander of the Bronx Homicide Task Force and an author and lecturer on homicide investigation techniques. “Sometimes you only get one shot in these cases, and people don't give up information unless they have to.” The new court decision, does not limit what detectives can say when the questioning people suspected of violent crimes, but it comes at a time when critics say that many wrongful convictions occurred after the defendants made false confessions. “The rules today are pretty much that the police can do what they want,” said law Prof. Stephen Saltzburg of George Washington University, and chairman of the criminal justice section of the American Bar Association.