It is always exciting to come upon an article about someone whose career offers me insight and inspiration as I constantly strive to learn more about criminal psychology and use that knowledge to be a better writer. For this reason, the CNN piece and accompanying documentary featuring retired Miami homicide detective Marshall Frank was perfect for me.
Since retiring from the force nearly a quarter of a century ago, after thirty years of service, Frank has been researching and writing crime novels. You know I love that! What a wonderful perspective he offers to the genre! He also has been sharing some of what he learned while trying to get confessions out of the most dangerous killers in Florida. His number one piece of advice? Make friends.
Frank says it is important to remember that the typical television scene depicting a barren, darkened room with multiple police officers tag teaming their efforts of yelling in an accused’s face is not what happens in real life. Frank, who had a highly successful and accurate career in reading the language and behavior of criminals in determining their guilt, shares that a detective must take the time needed to build up trust and get the person sitting across from him to want to tell his story.
In the article I read, Marshall Frank details some of his other encounters with violent and sick members of his community and explains the reversal he has taken on the death penalty. He no longer believes it to be a just punishment, and credits the research he has done for his books as bringing about the change in his outlook.
I encourage you to read the entire article. It offers a fascinating inside look into a world for which I have the highest level of respect. I would love to hear your comments.
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Several years ago I saw a Today Show story on something similar that the expert they portrayed said the same thing about interrogation techniques with terrorists. He could get more accurate information by befriending the terrorist, than by torturing them.
I’ll remember this the next time my characters are being interviewed by the police or FBI.