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Patented Device Aimed to Make it Easier to Obtain Criminal Confessions – Pic of the Week

After a suspect is arrested, obtaining a conviction is easier if they provide a full, uncoerced confession after being read their Miranda rights. That brings us to our picture of the week, which comes to us from the Patent Database.

The idea behind this talking skeleton was that it would help law enforcement obtain a reliable confession from a suspect. The suspect would be arrested and placed in a dark box with this talking skeleton. The skeleton’s eyes would glow red and its jaw would move up and down while a law enforcement officer positioned outside of the box, and outside of the view of the suspect, would speak through the skeleton using a microphone. The suspect was supposed to believe that the skeleton was providing them with a chance to repent for their crimes. But, rather than offering absolution, the skeleton was equipped with a recording device that would tape the suspect’s confession so it could later be used against them in court.

A patent diagram and description for a talking skeleton that was intended to assist law enforcement with obtaining confessions.

A patent for a talking skeleton that was intended to assist law enforcement with obtaining confessions. Image courtesy of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

It doesn’t seem like this device quite revolutionized law enforcement, since a suspect might ask themselves why a talking skeleton is hanging out at the police station and is so eager to speak with them about their crimes whenever the investigating officer is out of the room. Nevertheless, some people did build a replica, according to the patent’s specifications and filmed a video of them interrogating one another with the skeleton concerning the theft of a cookie.

Source consulted:
Delbert, Caroline. Insane Patent of the Week: This Animatronic Skeleton Interrogator from 1930. Popular Mechanics. October 1, 2020.  https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a33811519/insane-patent-of-the-week-this-animatronic-skeleton-interrogator-from-1930/

One Comment

  1. Leslie Katz
    April 8, 2022 at 10:13 am

    In a Canadian case (https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/bcca/doc/1980/1980canlii323/1980canlii323.html), an arsonist was surreptitiously recorded praying to God to escape punishment for his crime. It was held that the recording was admissible against him. A prohibition on the use in evidence of private communications with other persons didn’t apply because God wasn’t a person within the meaning of the prohibition.

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