Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley hosted a psychology professor and a veteran police investigator for a two-day training in cutting-edge interview techniques as part of his ongoing continuing education program.
The training, led by Prof. Brent Snook of the Memorial University of Newfoundland and Constable Todd Barron of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, introduced Suffolk prosecutors to the interview method known as PEACE – for Preparation and Planning, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure, and Evaluation. Members of the DA’s Homicide and Senior Trial units attended the training on Friday and Saturday.
“There is no law school class that teaches prosecutors interview techniques,” Conley said. “High court decisions tell us what is and isn’t legally acceptable, but they don’t tell us what’s effective. This seminar filled a significant gap in prosecutor training by offering scientifically-sound strategies for eliciting reliable information from suspects and witnesses without leading their statements or tainting their memories.”
The PEACE method was developed in England as a response to a series of false confessions by innocent suspects who were convicted of crimes they did not commit. It’s based on scientific research on how memory works, and was developed by police investigators who collaborated with psychologists. Conley has been a leader in efforts to identify, correct, and prevent wrongful convictions in Boston and Suffolk County, and previously hosted a different training by two nationally-recognized experts in preventing such false confessions. These and other trainings come under Conley’s continuing legal education requirement for Suffolk prosecutors, which allows them to continue honing their skills and exposes them to emerging fields of criminal law.
“Our reforms in gathering and using eyewitness identifications have been called the ‘gold standard’ by leaders in the field,” Conley said.