homicide exonerations explained by police manipulation

Would You Resist Police Manipulation ?

Watch step-by-step police manipulation techniques used to extract confessions for crimes committed or not. Would you resist the psychological warfare?

Watch step-by-step police manipulation techniques used in interrogation room to extract confession

75% of homicide exonerations are explained by prosecutor or police manipulation

According to a report from the University of Michigan Law School, there were 149 people who were declared innocent or cleared of their convictions or guilty pleas in 2015. The innocents had served nearly 15 years on average for crimes they did not commit.

In 75 of the 149 exonerations, it turned out no crime had been committed, e.g. accidental death wrongly attributed to arson. In 65 cases, the defendants had pleaded guilty to crimes they didn’t commit. False confessions had been obtained in 27 other exonerations. In the latter 2 groups, the convicted were either juveniles, mentally ill, intellectually disabled, or under threat. Overall, 75% of the homicide exonerations were explained by official misconduct of prosecutors or cops.

cartoon showing police manipulation by brainwashing a suspect
Police interrogator brainwashing a suspect

Suspects often end up believing in the fabricated confession

One of the most troubling aspect is that suspects often end up believing in the fabricated confession, thanks to the strength of false memories. To prove how easy it is to convince a person that s/he has committed a crime, Julia Shaw (University of Bedfordshire, UK) and Stephen Porter (university of British Columbia, Can) conducted an experience published in Psychological Science in January 2015.

Participants went through a series of 1-hour interviews over a three-week period. During the first meeting, the interviewer read two stories about the participant: one true anecdote reported by parents and one story entirely fabricated. In the latter, the participant had committed a crime (robbery, assault, etc) or suffered a major mishap (injury, loss of money, etc).

The participants were asked to search their memories about the two stories and to provide additional details in the subsequent meetings. At the end of the experience, the results were quite impressive as more than two thirds of respondents actually believed to have lived the false story providing specific facts about the police officers they were supposed to have met.

A situation of stress facilitates the inception of false memories

Why is the inception of false memories so easy? For the 2 researchers, false memories, like real memories, are reactivated by assembling scattered fragments, which have sometimes no direct connection with the story to remember. The credible fragments help to make the story probable: “what it might have looked like can turn into what it would have looked like, which, in turn, can become what it looked like,” hence creating the false memories. A situation of stress facilitates the overall process by removing any possible reality checks.

It also appears that the art of persuasion of the interviewer is not neutral to obtain confessions. In 2003, two social psychologists, Eric Knowles at the University of Arkansas and Jay Linn at Widener University, formalized the approach-avoidance psychology of persuasion.  To be persuasive, one must (i) increase the appeal of a goal (the “approach”), while (ii) decreasing the resistance surrounding that goal (the “avoidance”).

police manipulation based on authority figure
After preliminary assessments, the investigator’s tactic is to accuse the suspect

In a police interrogation, after preliminary assessments, the investigator’s tactic is to accuse the suspect of the crime, suggesting how and why the crime happened, usually based on presumptions rather than physical evidence that are hard to come by at crime scenes. The detective then initiates the do-the-right-thing approach, emphasizing confession as the only way to close the situation of stress and put the mind back to peace. This conflicts with the suspects’ (innocent or not) desire to avoid punishment, and creates indecision.

Seven principles to remove resistance barriers

For psychologist Robert Cialdini, seven principles are effective to remove avoidance barriers:

1. Liking

People tend to like and trust people who are like them, hence the most effective cops attempt to engage in casual conversations to create a non-threatening atmosphere and build a relationship based on shared interests and beliefs. The British Psychological Society (BPS) reported a study showing that confessions were “14 times more likely to occur early in an interrogation when a rapport-building approach was used. Confessions were four times more likely when interrogators struck a neutral and respectful stance. Rates of detainee disclosure were also higher when they were interrogated in comfortable settings”.

2. Authority

People respect and follow experts or leaders, hence the numerous headlines including “scientists say” or “research shows”. Business titles, impressive clothing, or even expensive, high-performing automobile are proven factors in lending credibility to individuals. For a police officer, authority is a given, and is easily abused. For example, cops routinely recommend suspects to waive their Miranda rights (to remain silent without the presence of an attorney) if they have nothing to hide. Suspects, whether innocent or not, often waive their rights as they want to be seen as cooperative and are afraid of antagonizing the police.

police manipulation using the psychology of persuasion
We’re not anti-police… we’re anti-police brutality. Al Sharpton

3. Reciprocity

People tend to return favors, hence providing free information, samples, or a positive experience incentivize people to give you something in return. The good cop strategy is based on this principle. In stress situations, many people will open up to someone offering compassion, and even go along with suggestions to ensure that the presumably nice person will continue to protect them.

4. Commitment and Consistency

People want to be both consistent and true to their word. When people commit, orally or in writing, they are likely to honor that commitment and will consistently stick to it for all subsequent related choices.  On the one hand, if a suspect agreed to engage in harmless discussions, it becomes harder for him/her to stop talking, or start lying, when the topic turns to the crime.

On the other hand, it is difficult to change people’s behaviors and attitudes, or in our case to convert a denying suspect into a confessing culprit. The best way to change attitude is to praise people for making good past decisions considering what they knew at the time and stress how the new behavior is consistent with the old ones.

Accordingly, most cops will concede that the suspect is a good person, who acted under adverse circumstances, but should now confess to be consistent with a good person behavior. This “minimizing” tactic downplays the seriousness of the offence, or blame it on other people or circumstances. While it allows the suspect to save face and dignity it also provides a false sense of security more likely to lead to a false confession as shown in an experiment reported by the BPS.

5. Social Validation

People will do things that they see other people doing as they want to belong. For instance, online testimonials are very effective to show customers that people similar to them have enjoyed a product or service. Falsely pretending that accomplices have already confessed their crimes, or charged the suspect, is a trick used in the US to convince suspects that it is ok to admit their own culpability.

As shown above in the Shaw/Porter experiment, these suggested wrong but credible information are extremely powerful to create false memories, especially in weaker minds in situation of stress. In comparison, police in England is not permitted to lie to suspects.

6. Unity

People share identity with groups, family being the most universal, but also based on ethnicity, geography, or other shared interests. The more an individual identifies with a group, the more powerful the unity effect is. Police interrogators often invoke the suspects’ identified values in order to coerce them to do the “right thing.”

police manipulation is enabled inside the interrogation room
Liars have a much harder time to invent and keep track of details

7. Scarcity

The less there is of something, the more valuable it is, and the more difficult it is to pass on the opportunity. For example, special offers available for a “limited time only” reduce the resistance to buy. Similarly, reduced time jail in exchange for guilty plea offered for a limited time only is a classic trick in the tool kit of a prosecutor and can sound appealing even to innocent suspects.

How police manipulation is enabled inside the interrogation room

These principles are powerful because they bypass our rational minds, appealing to our subconscious instincts.  In the Shaw/Porter experience, the interviewer encouraged the participants to search their memories while putting gentle pressure similar to the ones used in false-confession cases.

The experimenters included false clues like “your parents said…” (unity principle). They resorted to social pressure like “when they try hard, most people are able to recover lost memories” (social validation). Also, they provided signs of encouragement like nods or smiles, or signs of disappointment such as shaking head or frowns (liking). The meeting took place in a room with bookshelves suggesting the expertise of the interviewer (authority). Results were so strong that the experiment was stopped before running through all the participants.

People tend to confess more when they believe justice will prevail. But in court, confession trumps everything, even physical evidence, as it goes against common sense that an innocent person would confess to a criminal act. Still, false confessions are not uncommon and result in ruined life for innocents, real criminals free to commit more crimes, and wasted prosecution resources at the expense of society.

guilty as charged in court following police manipulation and prosecutor misconducts
In court, confession trumps everything even physical evidence

Towards new investigation techniques

Awareness is rising and new investigation techniques are being implemented. Canada and the UK already conducts non-accusatorial investigations, known as “Cognitive interview” and “PEACE method”, respectively, based on rapport building to get the suspect narrating as much as possible—with no suggestions made—and gather accurate information that can then be recouped.

Liars have a much harder time to invent and keep track of details. Nevertheless, some deceptive practices, such as influencing to waive the Miranda rights, some form of reciprocity or other minimizing tactics, will be hard to entirely remove for the protection of the innocents. These new techniques are also likely to results in fewer confessions, which shift the burden of asserting culpability back to the court system, with all its benefit and shortcomings.




The video soundtrack set up an oppressive atmosphere underlying the dubious police manipulation to extract confessions
Antonin Artaud, photographed by Man Ray, 1926

Antonin Artaud | Fury Fear Folly in Theatre of Cruelty

Who is Antonin Artaud? Watch a mixtape of his drawings, film acting and radio recordings staging his life as art in the subliminal Theatre of Cruelty.

Watch Antonin Artaud’s animated drawings and film acting over his radio recordings

A certain state of Fury

It was during a meeting, held in Paris in 1925 and led by Antonin Artaud (1896 – 1948), that the Research Office of the Surrealist group adopted the following statement: “Before any surrealist or revolutionary consideration, what dominates in their mind is a certain state of fury.”

This statement reflects Artaud’s mindset, exposing his difference vis-à-vis the rest of the movement: absurdity and irrationality were his way of life, not just figures of style and mannerism. His exclusion from the movement is acted in November 1926.

During all his life, Artaud used multiple forms of expression.  He was essayist, poet, actor, director, public speaker, illustrator, etc. All genres were put to work as desperate attempts to exorcise himself, and identify his own image, though numerous self-portrait.

What is reality for Antonin Artaud?

Artaud had a beautiful face, enhanced by an intense stare, and modelled for Max Ernst, Balthus, Dubuffet or Man Ray.  On the screen, he specialized in supporting roles of roaring madmen for famous film directors.  In “Napoleon” (Abel Gance, 1927), he plays a convulsive Marat.  He is a mystic monk in “Joan of Arc” (Carl Dreyer, 1928).  In the “Croix de Bois” (R. Bernard, 1932), he runs out of the trenches, screaming, before collapsing, ghastly, his eyes fixed and possessed. 

In real life, Artaud is described as being unpredictable, with sudden and dreaded mood swings.  But more than anything else, his tragic brawls make people uncomfortable not knowing which part is comedy and which part is genuine.  This is as if he was living his roles and acting his life.  He refused to distinguish between reality and fiction.  

For him, reality is only defined by consensus, the same consensus the audience accepts when they enter a theatre and pretend that what they are seeing is real.

Antonin Artaud drawing on electroshock therapy
Animated drawing from Antonin Artaud about his pain and electroshock therapy

The Tormented Folly of Antonin Artaud and Van Gogh

For Artaud, a self-imposed suffering is necessary to create art, the same way suffering defines the human existence. His essay “Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society” (1947) is critical to understand Artaud’s work.   He wrote this text after his own release from a 9-year internment in a psychiatric hospital. 

This is a Van Gogh biography from the inside.  This is a formidable thesis against psychiatric persecution and against the society: “because this is not the man but the world that became abnormal.” While the essay is a true poetic interpretation of the famous painter’s esthetic, it is, above all, a very personal work. In truth, Artaud identifies himself with Van Gogh, as he would have done on the screen, and tells about his own experiences.

Artaud is fascinated because Van Gogh was not painting “lines and forms, but parts of still nature as if in full convulsions.” Artaud was himself an illustrator, and he practiced his art with the same fury and violence that he did everything else.  Doctor Dequeker reported the genesis of one of his creation, transposing with mastery the style of the artist:

“on a large sheet of white paper he had drawn the abstract outline of a face and in this space (…), without any mirror, I saw him create his double, as if in a cauldron, in burning torture and absolute cruelty.  He was in rage, breaking pencils after pencils, suffering internal pain from his own exorcism. Through the screams and the most feverish poems ever spewed from his tormented guts, he was beating and casting spells on a nation of rebel larvae, when all of a sudden, with striking resemblance, his face appeared.”
Morphing of 3 autoportraits by Antonin Artaud
I saw him create his double, as if in a cauldron, in burning torture and absolute cruelty

Existential Fear of fixity, order and cohesion

His fight against the real and the matter, against the physical imprisonment of his mind, is permanent.  His writing style also reflects the same existential battle against fixity, order and cohesion. To create an outlet for his natural fury, Artaud frequently used the narrative form of badgering, sometime calling himself, sometime an unsuspecting correspondent, but more generally the entire world.

To master and corral his creativity, he hit a piece of wood with a knife or a hammer, while chanting and punctuating the diatribes forming under his hand.  His writings can easily be read aloud, as they match the rhythm of life, with their screams of love and hate. 

The form of his writings is also deconstructed. Words or groups of words are sent back to the next line, bolded, centered or aligned to the right.  Many of his essays are made from a collection of articles, conferences, letters, manifests, etc. Still, from the disparate juxtaposition, from the chaos, superior meaning springs, almost unreachable, sometime elusive, but always within the romantic tradition of the visionary poet.  

Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty

Artaud is best known for his essay on the “theatre and its double” published in 1938. This text is not just a critic, as often with Artaud, but the true foundation for an innovative theory of total showmanship.  He believes that theatre in western countries is limited to entertainment value, anchored in social and psychological conflicts. It is heavily based on dialogues that belong more to a book than to a scene. 

By replacing spoken language with music, dance, mime, ritual, mystic chants, lighting etc., a supernatural language of senses can better communicate ideas and feelings. He proposed “a theatre in which violent physical images crush and hypnotize the sensibility of the spectator seized by the theatre as by a whirlwind of higher forces” to shock the audience out of its complacency.




Soundtrack for Antonin Artaud | Fury Fear Folly in Theatre of Cruelty
The music was created by sampling and layering the basic recordings made by the poet for a radio production

Art for life – Life as Art

Throughout his life, Antonin Artaud embodied art in all its forms, mixing madness to supernatural, anarchy to creation, poetry to reality to form a total showmanship.  He corralled his internal fury to seed his creativity and reach new emotions and meanings for art.  At the same time, art provided a critical outlet for Antonin Artaud’s anxiety and delirium and became a true philosophy of life.  In a full circle effect, Antonin Artaud became its own mysterious piece of art.

Antonin Artaud (September 1896 – 4 March 1948) was was a French writer, poet, dramatist, visual artist, essayist, actor and theatre director.

souls harvested by the grim reaper

How to become a Grim Reaper ?

Do you believe in fate? Check out our Ray Bradbury video about the grim reaper scythe, including Munch and Van Gogh animation. Your turn to change destiny!

Do you believe in fate? Check out our adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s grim reaper tale

The Scythe short story from Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury said about his short story “The Scythe” that “It’s a double metaphor. It’s the automatic metaphor of knowing farmers and seeing them using the scythe on occasion, and then the obvious metaphor you saw in cartoons or war and death. Reaping harvests. I must have seen a cartoon and carried it to the next step.”  Well, it must only be fate that brought the plot full circle into an animated video of the Grim Reaper.

Fate is indisputably the central character of the plot, more than the Grim Reaper himself.

Do you believe in Fate?

It is fate that drove the family to food and shelter, as if the family man had been the chosen one, led to the farm just in time, to succeed in the role of his passing predecessor.  Hence, was everything written in the first place with nothing left to chance or free will?

When the family man realizes that he is killing people every time he uses the scythe, he has to come up with a justification. He is doing what he’s doing for the greater good of his family. The key question is whether it would have been possible then to walk away from the predicament.  “Let him take them freely” says the giver’s letter about the farm, the wheat, the scythe and the task. This suggests it could have been possible to disclaim the property.  But it does take courage to say no, as there is always a price to pay.  Leaving the farm would have costs the family the certainty of food and shelter without any guarantee of survival. 

Are we choosing the easy way and calling it Fate?

Instead, by accepting his fate against the promise of food and shelter, does the family man seal the deal that will lead to his family destruction?  He knows still per the giver’s letter, that the Grim Reaper is “alone in the world as it has been decreed.”  This story was written in 1943 during World War II and echoes choices made by the Nazis in obeying orders, refusing to stand for what is right and later denying any responsibility. 

Animated painting from Van Gogh showing a grim reaper harvesting its wheat field
Poor chap who inherit the job of the grim reaper and can’t escape his fate

Fate, however, continues to tighten its grip. As Henry David Thoreau once said: “It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate.” It becomes more and more difficult for the family man to let go of his new professional duties: “Can’t let nobody else mess with that wheat; they wouldn’t know where to cut and not to cut.  They might cut the wrong parts.” The greater good has shifted from his family man’s duties to the humanity’s fate.  So, is there a turning point when one does lose control of his own fate?

Or are we prisoners of Fate like the Grim Reaper?

As the story unfold, the question of free will against fate comes again.  When the family man sees the stalks that represent the lives of his family, he refuses to cut them in a desperate move to counter the writing in the wheat.  We see again that this decision is not without consequences as his wife and kids can neither die nor live.  Worse, the outcomes are now between two evils. 

Does it mean that fate always wins in the end, and that our lives are pre-ordained?  Well, we hope there might be a window, a fork in the road, where it is still possible to exercise free will to choose a destiny, like leaving the farm early on for better or for worse.  In this story, there was clearly a time to act honorably and a time to regret desperately. 

Ray Bradbury may have had a darker view of life as his short story starts with: “Quite suddenly there was no more road.”

You can read The Scythe short story here. A very grim Grim Reaper story indeed!



Soundtrack for 'How to Become a Grim Reaper'?
Soul Reaper was inspired by the dark ambience of Dead Can Dance
lighthouse spreading light

Best Way of Spreading Light

Edith Wharton’s quote: “There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it” is an allegory for inspiration and creativity.

Watch video inspired by Edith Wharton’s quote on spreading light

Interpretations of Edith Wharton’s inspirational quote

This famous quote from Edith Wharton has different meanings to different people.  Social forums have these various takes on it:

  • There are two ways in which people can live their life. They can either follow their heart and do what they want. Or, they can be the person that appreciates what others have done.
  • Many of us have the tendency to think that supporting others means that we’re inferior.  It’s sad that many of us prefer to start substandard projects instead of helping someone who is better at it.
  • Candle melts as time goes on. Its length decreases proportionately with time and finally it gets extinguished. Now look at the mirror. It does nothing except reflecting light but gives an impression of being a never ending source of light.
  • The light refers to any positive aspect of life, be it knowledge, kindness, or even love. You can always spread this positivity of life, without being the cause of it.
  • We’re all both candles and mirrors at different points in time and in different situations.
lighthouse lenses and mirrors spreading light
The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind. A. Einstein

Spreading Light and Creativity

Interestingly, this quote is rarely seen as an allegory for inspiration and creativity. Still, one could understand it to describe the process of looking at someone’s idea from a different angle, or through a different filter, to build new concepts.

As Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is having enough dots to connect.” In a world of great scientists and researchers (the candles) another talent (the mirror) can reflect on the discovery from the experts to propose pragmatic solutions in other areas.  There are multiple business examples of such successes:

  • Hospitals improved their check-in process after consulting with hotel managers;
  • Oil transmission companies found better ways to seal cracked pipelines after understanding the self-healing properties of capillaries;
  • A whitening toothpaste was developed by studying how laundry detergents whitens clothes

Indeed, mirrors are as important as candles with their ability to extend and concentrate the light into new areas.

the sun spreading light on the beach
Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World. Christopher Columbus

Edith Wharton (January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937), born Edith Newbold Jones, was an American novelist, short story writer, and designer.




Soundtrack for SpareTag video 'Best Way to Spread Light'