Monday, August 26, 2013

Analysis: False Confession of Thomas Cogdell, 12

While watching a documentary on the case where Thomas Cogdell, 12, was accused of killing his sister, I was stunned at just how often he told the police, "I didn't kill her."

He was interviewed by three ignorant and zealous men who should not be in law enforcement.  Their utter lack of training was appalling.

Listening to the quotes of statistics, I agree with the finding that police officers who take Statement Analysis training were tested before and after the training with these results:

1.  The police scored lower than the general public on identifying liars
2.  After taking training, the police scores remained lower than the general public.

Police often feel that "everyone" is lying.

This week, I met a woman who spoke to me after my speech in Boulder in which I mentioned how poorly police are in catching liars.  She said, "my husband is a detective", so I thought to myself, 'brace yourself for some anger', but instead of anger she was laughing and said how incredibly accurate my description was.  She said her husband never believes her (her laughter dissipated) and thinks that "everyone" is lying.  She also said he is leaving law enforcement for insurance investigations.  I encouraged her to encourage him to training.

The SCAN training is difficult.  My estimation is this:

If one takes the SCAN training (See and works diligently in practicing, in about two years, the "analyst" will emerge.  As for practice, I am thinking of working on statements, every day, without fail, for 2 hours per day until the magical number is reached:

1000 hours.

1000 hours is often sited as the mark of proficiency in learning any skill, from guitar study to analysis.

In the case of Thomas Cogdell, there are two things which stand out:

1.  "I didn't do it" is spoken plainly, early and often.  Only when he enters the language of the ignorant accusers does he frame "I killed her"; which is their language; not his.  At one point of the video, he whispers to his mother that he didn't do it but will tell them he did. He may have thought he was protecting her.

His language showed veracity.

2.  False confession

In listening to his confession, it is immediately apparent that the language did not come from memory. In fact, without analysis, I heard him go out of chronological order, at least twice, regarding the event.

His language showed confession.

False confessions do not come from memory.  If someone is beaten, or sleep deprived, or coerced into a confession, since it does not come from experiential memory, it can only contain the words of the interrogator (parroting language) or it will show deception.

False confessions are deceptive statements and are seen as such.

When Amanda Knox defenders claim she was beaten and threatened into a false confession, Statement Analysis showed that it came from experiential memory:  She was not lying:  She had guilty knowledge of the murder---she may not have inflicted the blows (I believe she did not) but she was present and helped the clean up.

This is why she was deceptive when she went to blame someone else:  she had the need to deceive.

Statement Analysis is added to the following article, in bold type.

'We'll give you the death penalty': How police 'forced innocent boy, 12, to confess to strangling his sister, 11

A 12-year-old boy found guilty of murdering his 11-year-old sister said he was forced to confess to the murder after hours of 'terrifying' police interrogation - although he had nothing to do with it.
Police suspected Thomas Cogdell, now 18, had strangled his sister at their Camden, Arkansas home after his shock at her death stunned him into silence. Hours later, he admitted he was to blame.
Although found guilty, Cogdell insists he had no part in her murder and was coerced into a confession. After two years in jail, he was released when a judge found he was unfairly questioned.
Distress: During interrogation, Thomas Cogdell, then 12, told police 36 times he did not murder his sister. Cogdell said when police turned off the recorder, the pressure intensified and led to a confession he insists was false
Distress: During interrogation, Thomas Cogdell, then 12, told police 36 times he did not murder his sister. He said when police turned off the recorder, he was pressured into confessing his 'guilt'
During questioning following the 2006 crime, the boy - an intelligent bookworm - told police 36 times he had had no part in the killing.
But when he asked for food, officers switched off the tape recorder. Three-and-a-half hours later they switched it on again - and Cogdell confessed to the murder.
They had allegedly used tactics such as threatening him with the death penalty. He was unaware a child cannot be sentenced to such a penalty.

    He eventually told police he had snapped because his sister was bossy and he put the bags over her head to teach her a lesson, The Commerical Appeal reported.
    But in reality, he had made up the confession, believing that DNA evidence would clear him.
    Police had told him they found a fingerprint on the plastic bags. He can be heard at the end of the recording whispering to his mother: 'I didn't do it. It's OK, Mom. They won't find my fingerprints.'

    On tape, he is repeatedly heard telling police, "I didn't kill her", and "I did not kill my sister", though each time, it was ignored by police. 

    Murdered: Kaylee Cogdell, 11, was found dead on her bed with bags tied around her head. Her brother remained calm, which police say as a sign of guilt
    Murdered: Kaylee Cogdell, 11, was found dead on her bed with bags tied around her head. Her brother remained calm, which police saw as a sign of guilt
    As it turned out, police were unable to read a clear print and the boy was found guilty of murdering his young sister as she slept.
    'I was terrified,' Cogdell, now 18, said in a recent interview. 'They wouldn't believe me and they said they would give me the death penalty.'
    The case is just the latest example fuelling the debate about whether police interrogations should be recorded.
    In August 2006, Cogdell was awoken by his mother, Melody Jones. Together they found 11-year-old Kaylee sprawled on her bed.
    Her head was covered with two Walmart bags, and she had been tied up with the family dog's lead and a measuring tape, The Commerical Appeal reported.
    When his mother became too hysterical, he calmly called 911 and gave directions to their family home.
    Police dragged him in for questioning, turning their attentions away from his mother, who Cogdell and his grandparents insist is guilty of the murder.
    Melody Jones admitted to police she had repeatedly smacked her daughter the night before her death when she refused to come home as she had been told.
    They ignored her confession that she was on Social Security disability due to mental illness, including bipolar disorder, and that she sometimes failed to take her medicine.
    A video of the questioning show investigators repeatedly telling the boy: 'You or your mother did it.'
    Although an unknown male's DNA was found on Kaylee, investigators ruled out the possibility of an intruder as there were no signs of a break in.
    Interview: Cogdell's mother, Melody Jones, is treated more compassionately than her son during interrogation. Cogdell believes his mother, who had a history of mental illness, is guilty of killing Kaylee
    Interview: Cogdell's mother, Melody Jones, is treated more compassionately than her son during interrogation. Cogdell believes his mother, who had a history of mental illness, is guilty of killing Kaylee
    Cogdell said when the recorder was off, he was told he could go home if he told investigators he was to blame and he'd go to jail if he didn't, according to The Commerical Appeal.
    But in at least 36 recorded denials, he is heard pleading with police.

    Crying, he offered to swear on a Bible or take a polygraph test.'I wouldn't kill my sister. I didn't do it, OK?,' he said. 'I didn't. I didn't kill my sister. Is there any way I can prove that to you?'
    One of the detectives asked: 'What are you crying for?'

    Can we even imagine such ignorance on the part of a man who carries a weapon? "What are you crying for?" to a kid who's accused of murdering his sister?  I can only imagine the psychological profile of this detective!

    He responded: 'Because you are accusing me of something I didn't do -- of killing my sister.'

    When police left, Thomas let out shrill cries and said to himself: 'Why? ... I didn't do it, but they won't believe me. Help. I'm scared.'

    He is repeatedly heard talking to himself, saying "I didn't kill her"

    He was eventually convicted of second-degree murder by a Ouachita County judge in March 2008.

    The high court threw out the confession in 2010 - but on technical grounds as he had told police he didn't understand what it meant to waive his rights to remain silent and have an attorney with him.

    He served two years in jail but has not been cleared.

    'I lost my faith in the justice system,' Cogdell said. 'I don't believe in any of it anymore.'

    Memphis defense attorney Gray Bartlett told The Commerical Appeal that police are often trained in the type of military tactics used in questioning suspected terrorists.

    'It's so contrary to common sense,' he said of false confessions. 'But what happens in these interrogation rooms is that they break down people's will.'

    Steve Drizin, a lawyer with the Center on Wrongful Conviction of Youth, said: 'The interrogation is one of the most riveting examples of psychological torture I have ever seen.'
    But prosecuting attorney Robin Carroll to the Appeal: 'No evidence or court holding has been forthcoming to cause my office to doubt anything done in the case, or its basis.'

    Simply put:

    Statement Analysis showed that he did not kill his sister and was telling the truth.  
    Statement Analysis showed that when he confessed to killing his sister, he was deceptive.  


    Anonymous said...

    Memphis is known for being corrupt. The police and judges are known as the 'Memphis Mafia', covering things up and speeding them to prison/death row. This is no surprise. Remember Philip Workman's case?

    Anyway, Peter, would you please include Hannah Anderson in your 1,000?

    sidebar said...

    someone's gotta crush!

    sidebar said...

    someone's got a crush!

    sidewalk super said...

    So has anyone bothered to scrutinize the bi-polar mother at this late date?
    What a gem she is, letting her son confess and take punishment he in no way deserved.
    Didn't bond too well with either of her children, did she?

    Shelley said...

    I recall this case. The mother has major issues.

    I always thought she was the one that killed the little girl and tried to get her son to take the blame.

    I do also recall his direct "i didn't do it' statements when I heard tapes.

    Anonymous said...

    I just watched a partial police interrogation she said the following:

    “I didn’t know nothing”
    “I didn’t do nothing”
    “I didn’t hear nothing last night”

    Then the video I watched she starts talking about the son next and says
    “he zones sometimes when he get mad”
    LE asks “what does that mean”
    “it’s like hes not there”

    Also said in a later interview that she blacked out part of the night and says she doesn’t remember what medication she was on.
    The son also believes his mother killed his sister.

    VLW said...


    john said...

    The interrogation of Thomas Cogdell watch how cleverly the officer puts the words "That i killed her" into his mouth..Disgusting!!

    Anonymous said...

    These were moms statements... Forgot taht part.

    Anyone want to analyze? Mom to me seems sketchy.

    I just watched a partial police interrogation she said the following:

    “I didn’t know nothing”
    “I didn’t do nothing”
    “I didn’t hear nothing last night”

    Then the video I watched she starts talking about the son next and says
    “he zones sometimes when he get mad”
    LE asks “what does that mean”
    “it’s like hes not there”

    Also said in a later interview that she blacked out part of the night and says she doesn’t remember what medication she was on.
    The son also believes his mother killed his sister.

    Anonymous said...

    I feel badly for this kid, in this story....

    but this story also has me wanting to play 'devil's advocate' if you will...and pose a question about Statement Analysis....

    I am firmly convinced there is some sort of liar's gene, or a genetic thing that affects the brain that leads to it (just as there is a gene that predisposes one to addictions or mental illness or epilepsy)....and I am also certain this liar's gene runs in my family.....

    I have had quite a bit of experience with liars who have no problem saying "I didn't do it", maybe it is rare, but it certainly can happen.

    Just as an example: I've seen a 30 month old child with cookie crumbs on his mouth and the box betwixt his legs and hear him say "I didn't eat the cookies, mommy"... and he wasn't avoiding any punishment! The most anyone would have said is "well we need to go buy more cookies then".

    One of the older people in our family has destroyed his own possessions and trashed his own room so that he could accuse the other people in the household of doing it.....and he admitted he did that just to watch the drama and confusion and arguments.

    Shelley said...

    Anon 1:17....

    Peter has commented on this a little.

    I may not relay this correct so if not, anyone else please jump in.

    Now first, he has said that the higher the risk, the harder it is to lie. There is also a lady who is known for detecting deception but more from actions, demeanor, facial expressions etc... (eyes for lies) and she has noted the same. Like if its years after the fact vs on trial for murder, they will find it easier to lie. The stress of lying and the risk is what adds to the noted deception.

    The less stress, the easier. So if in the case above you noted with the cookies, there is no real risk in the lie, its not as stressful.

    Where if you are being questioned for murder. The stress is much higher.

    Then the other thing I remember reading...IF someone could say the words "I didn't do it", if asked to re-affirm the statment, if you asked why did you say you didnt do it, they would then struggle to say "because I was telling the truth"

    I just looked, I am pasting something Peter wrote in his blog.


    When someone has told the truth, he will say, "I told the truth" when challenged, with the strong connection seen in the pronoun, "I", the past tense verb, "told" and the word "truth" used in one sentence.

    "I am telling the truth" is not as strong, as it is in the present tense.
    "I don't lie" uses the word "lie" along with the present tense "don't" verb, also weak.

    I myself have a mother that is a pathalogical liar. She likes just for the sake of it at times. Other times its for symphthy or just to one up you. Bad or good.

    And I have noticed she can at times outright deny. But I think if I were to use Peters responses to her, that is where she would trip up. But she was so good most of her life people believed her. It usually takes new people a few years to catch on. And in fact, her now ex boyfriend of 12 years said that he was convinced he was losing his mind towards the end because she is so convincing.

    She would tell the blue shirt you were wearing was purple and when you tried to argue that it is blue, she would say you were color blind.

    She always has a way to turn it back and often its more that she would confuse you which I see alot here on Peters blog.

    Shelley said...

    Here is more on that from Peter on what I noted above and can be read in the "Troy Lyons Hoax: Resigns" post.

    Subjects telling the truth should be ask:

    “Why should we believe you?”

    The strongest answer is “because I told the truth.” When a reliable statement is made (First Person Singular, Past Tense) followed by “I told you the truth”, it is considered in excess of 99% likely truthful. It is also a simple sentence avoided by deceptive people.

    Shelley said...

    I commented about my mother above always lying.

    I just thought about her favorite response when anyone would say she was lying....

    "how dare you call me a liar, I despise liars more than anything else in the world"

    Yet she has never said "I told the truth".

    I think Peter could do a case study on my mother. I dont think I have every met another human so comfortable lying. If I said I have come to love cooking in the crockpot, she now cooked EVERY meal in the crockpot AND also had a 2nd making homemade bread. When no one was saying they were better. That happened and its what she does.

    And I when he spoke of Billie and she then lashed out on him and insulted him, my mom would do the same.

    We have not spoken over a final lie she told me about 2 years ago. She actually cut me out because I refused to belive her. To this date, I have received about 200 emails. Many of them she tried to prove she didnt like with some random thing that had nothing to do with the lie. Has then brought up wrongs done to her father in 1949, blamed her brothers for everything under the son. You name it.

    It is crazy.

    Peter - if you ever want too look at this to practice your analyzing, let me know.

    Trigger said...

    This story makes me sad.

    How could police do this to a 12 year-old boy?

    It sounds like the mother is a real jerk.

    Shelley said...

    Everyone needs to read more about the mother.

    I honestly think she killed the little girl and set up him to take the fall all while pretending to be the greiving concerned mother.

    The morning of, mom woke him up and told him they had a surprise for his sister. Which is odd and nothing has ever been said again about what this surprise was.

    Sounds to me like mom wanted him in the room.

    Also, the medical examiner told them "the death was consistent with a 286-pound person laying on top of Kaylee and holding her head down. Which is about the weight of the mother".

    I think mom did it. I have since I first read about it.

    Anonymous said...

    Fact-checking the first part of your blog post.

    It's not 1,000 hours to mastery. It's 10,000 hours to mastery.

    This number is based on a mastery study that Malcolm Gladwell quoted in his book Outliers. The mastery study was done by Anders Ericsson.

    Mistakes like these weaken your credibility, Peter, since it makes you seem haphazard and shooting from the hip.

    Iam Selling said...

    I just watched a 2 min tape and I am Horrified! This child is obviously mentally challenged and the treatment he received is atrocious! Clearly he is shaking his head no while stating he did not kill his sister! I am no expert on body language but..... seriously? These cops need a jail term themselves!

    Unknown said...

    I need to chime in for anyone reading the older posts.

    Anon above is technically right. It is10,000 hours to master something.

    But what he leaves out is this form of mastery is referring to the most elite people on earth. Tiger Woods. Michael Jordan. Tyson. Eminem. Yes, rap practice.

    1000 hours is the amount it takes to become proficient enough to be considered good. 1000 hours to be good enough to go pro, as it were.

    Anonymous said...

    Something that no one seems to want to tell anyone...... a friend of Melody Jones told Her "ex" husband ( no one seemed to ask were he was at the time of the murder or even pull him into court... strange?) that melody called her after the murder and told her that she ( melody) who was supposedly allergic to bleach... was cleaning the entire house with bleach at the time her daughter was " found". this was never reported on and the husband was never brought in. fishy stuff right here.