Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond

By George C. Thomas III; Richard A. Leo | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CHAPTER 6
The “American Method”—The
Third Degree

American police, but not English police, developed the interrogation method known as the “third degree”—the use of intense coercion on suspects to produce confessions. Jerome Frank wrote in 1949, “To our shame be it said that the English, who do not tolerate the ‘third degree,’ call it the American method.’”1 Many of the same cultural forces operating in England also operated in the United States. One of our tasks in this chapter is to seek differences that explain why our police were willing to use physical force to obtain confessions, while the English police were not.


A. The Culture That Produced the Third Degree

Like other social phenomena, harsh police interrogation tactics did not arise in a vacuum. The early years of America’s existence were tumultuous: the War of Independence, fear of foreign invasion, molding the states into a nation, the War of 1812, and the westward expansion into the frontier. But one explanation for the third degree that we must reject is the violent, frontier nature of early American culture. If that were a factor, the American cases would have diverged from the English cases in the early 1800s. They did not. As we saw in chapter 4, one of the most robust expressions of the Hawkins-Leach dictum came from the frontier state of Tennessee in 1823.2

The Treaty of Ghent in 1814 ended the War of 1812, as well as our long-standing belligerence with England. Peace ushered in an era of great prosperity for the United States. Prior to 1850, Lawrence Friedman notes that American “opinion exuberantly believed in growth, believed that resources were virtually unlimited…. The theme of American law before 1850 was the release of energy, in Willard Hurst’s phrase.”3 Between 1850 and 1900, however, Friedman concludes that America changed in fundamental ways. “By 1900, if one can speak about so slippery a thing as dominant public opinion,

-112-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 317

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?