Pressure of interrogation imperils even the innocent, says York professor

The recent Supreme Court decision in R v Singh, in which the court upheld the conviction of a man who confessed after police continued to question him despite his repeated assertions of his right to remain silent, has attracted renewed attention to the protection that the right to silence is supposed to afford, wrote Timothy Moore, professor and Chair of the Psychology Department at York’s Glendon College, in the Toronto Star Nov. 26.

There can be little doubt that some sort of safeguard is necessary in light of the many DNA-exonerated innocent defendants who confessed prior to their trials, Moore wrote. There is a substantial body of research on the psychology of confessions. We now know that, depending on how they are interrogated, actual innocence may put innocent people at risk. Police cautions are imperfectly understood in the first place, especially by young people or adults with cognitive impairments.

Some innocent suspects waive their right to silence because they perceive innocence to be protective and believe that their blamelessness will soon be self-evident. Unrealistically, they anticipate they will be able to explain to investigators the error of their ways. Regrettably, the ensuing interrogation risks eliciting a false confession from an innocent person, possibly contributing to a false conviction.

While it is understandable that an innocent person would honestly believe that their candour will ultimately remove them from suspicion, naïveté in the interrogation room is not restricted to the suspect. There are two fundamental and interrelated assumptions that drive the interrogation process, the validity of which is sufficiently dubious so as to compromise the reliability of the entire enterprise.

The first false assumption is that innocent suspects can be distinguished from their guilty counterparts on the basis of various behavioural cues, Moore wrote. The second false assumption  is the belief that innocent suspects are immune to standard interrogation tactics.

York prof doubts controversial book can turn children from religion

Where do children get their religious beliefs?, asked Judith Timson in a column for The Globe and Mail Nov. 27. And when do they make their own independent decisions about what to believe? My feeling is that they first learn of them in the home, but that if they’re lucky, that is only the beginning of a deeply personal process of questioning and affirming that will continue for the rest of their lives.

Rachael Turkienicz, professor of religious studies in York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, agrees: "Children are making decisions constantly about what they believe as they go along," she says. "What they are really trying to do is make a connection and find a place for themselves in the world, which is what adults do too, of course."

Turkienicz also poignantly points out another great influence on a child’s religious beliefs: "Life. A crisis. Those moments when the earth shakes beneath a child’s feet." But like most educators, Turkienicz doubts that any book could turn a child to or from religion, wrote Timson.

Journeyman artist comes of age

Robert Amos (BA Spec. Hons. ’73) is getting his due, wrote BC’s Goldstream News Gazette Nov. 21. Booked as one of four feature artists in an upcoming show in Japan, tapped to do a brush and ink commission for the Canadian embassy in Japan, with a new book launched in the last few weeks and now a four-month exhibition set to open Nov. 22, the painter and art critic has hit his stride. "There’s a synthesis going on in my life," he said in his McKenzie Street studio. "The different parts I’ve been working on for many, many years are really coming together."

It’s been a haul for the Ontario-raised painter, 57, who came to Victoria in 1975. A graduate of York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, he worked as assistant to the director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in the 1970s and has been the Times Colonist art reviewer since 1986. But he’s best known for his ubiquitous acrylic renderings of the city’s historic homes and architectural icons. His posters, prints and cards are standards in card shops and in his home gallery near Cook Street Village.

Baby-desperate moms share every detail online

May Friedman, a women’s studies PhD student at York University who studies infertility and mothering blogs, says such forums bring together two of the Web’s major hallmarks: anonymity and confession, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 27. Tell-all blogs are safe places for the infertile to overcome the shame and isolation they may feel about infertility. They can "come out," if you will.