Victims, including Knox, push for legislation against police deception in interrogations

Knox: “I did not know they could lie to me”

Amanda Knox, the Vashon resident who spent nearly four years in an Italian prison for a murder she did not commit, offered heartfelt testimony Jan. 8 in favor of a bill that would limit law enforcement officers’ ability to use deception during custodial interrogations.

“I was interrogated overnight by police officers who claimed to have evidence against me, who claimed that there were witnesses who could place me at the crime scene,” Knox said. “They lied to me. I did not know they could lie to me… These are people who I was raised to believe that I could trust.”

Knox was testifying in favor of HB 1062, a bill under debate in the state Legislature. Under the measure, any statement determined by the court to have been obtained by an officer’s use of deception, during an interrogation of someone in police custody, would be inadmissible as evidence. Advocates say they believe the bill will help prevent false convictions; critics argued that courts can already throw out statements obtained via deception.

The measure is supported by people unjustly convicted of crimes and social activists pressing for reform. It is opposed by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and state Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

“Sometimes, it’s an unfortunate reality, we have to lie to people to get them to tell the truth,” said James McMahan, Policy Director for the sheriffs and police chiefs association. “This is not good public policy in our view. This does not address our ongoing growing crime problem in Washington.”

When Knox was just 20, she was subjected to 53 hours of questioning more than five days in a foreign language, without legal counsel. She was sentenced to 26 years in prison, serving four years before being exonerated by DNA evidence.

“I believe that if I had not been lied to by the police, none of this would have ever happened,” Knox said.

Rep. Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, is a notable sponsor of the bill. In 2011, Simmons was sentenced to 30 months in prison for theft, drug and firearm crimes. She was elected in 2020 as Washington State’s first formerly incarcerated lawmaker.

Also testifying in favor was Ted Bradford, Washington State’s first person to be exonerated by DNA results. He was interrogated for 9.5 hours when he was 22 years old and served 10 years in prison.

“I was told many times that ‘you are the person that did this.’” Bradford said. “I knew I was innocent … I thought, just give them a statement, give them what they want now. They’ll test that evidence, and this will all be over.”

Adding support for the bill was the Washington Innocence Project.

“Criminal investigations are no longer a search for truth, but they are a search for generating material that will lead to a conviction,” said Lara Zarowsky, the executive director of the Washington Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that supplies free legal and investigative services to those who have been wrongfully convicted.

Certified forensic reviewer David Thompson also testified in favor of the bill. For over four decades, he provided training on interview and interrogation techniques to federal state local law enforcement.

“If we lie about evidence, cameras, fingerprints, DNA, it causes memory distrust. It causes confusion … Why do investigators lie in the first place?” Thompson asked. “It’s because the evidence doesn’t exist. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be deceptive.”

Thompson said he thinks the bill will have broad, positive effects.

“I firmly believe this legislation not only will improve the quality and effectiveness of investigative interviews, but also rebuilds trust and will help resolve cases,” Thompson said.

Julie Barrett, founder of the Conservative Ladies of Washington, argued the legislation is not needed because if a law enforcement officer intentionally uses deception in a custodial interrogation, the evidence they glean through that deception is already inadmissible in court.

James Trainum, a retired detective from Washington D.C. Police Department, pushed back against that idea.

“Every single case involving a wrongful conviction that had a false confession, that judge ruled that conviction to be admissible,” Trainum said.

If the bill is approved, Washington State will be the 10th state to ban deceptive tactics, according to the testimony by Russell Brown, of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. Brown added Washington would be the only state to protect more than just minors from these tactics.

A substitute version of the bill, now being debated following the Jan. 8 hearing, makes some allowances for police deception. It would allow an officer to use deception when necessary to protect the integrity of a police investigation; to protect the identity of an officer, witness, victim or informant; or to confirm the identity or whereabouts of a victim that an officer believes the subject is trying to conceal information about.

The substitute bill also specifies that it would not apply to questioning during traffic stops or sting operations.

The measure is now scheduled for a hearing in the House of Representatives on Feb. 1.

The Washington State Journal is a non-profit news website operated by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation. To learn more, go to This article, by Aspen Anderson and Mary Murphy at the Washington State Journal, also includes reporting from Beachcomber staff.