Derek Tice, Danial Williams, Joseph J. Dick Jr. and Eric C. Wilson are four of the five men convicted in the brutal rape and murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko in 1997 in Norfolk, Virginia. The convictions of the four were largely based on confessions, which they maintain were coerced. The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project considers this a miscarriage of justice.[ Moore-Bosko's parents, however, continue to believe that all those convicted were participants in the crime. Tice, Williams and Dick either pleaded guilty to or were convicted of the murder, and were sentenced to one or more life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole. Wilson was convicted of rape and sentenced to 8½ years in prison. Three other men, Geoffrey A. Farris, John E. Danser and Richard D. Pauley, Jr., were also initially charged with the crime, but their charges were later dropped. The supporters of the Norfolk Four have offered evidence that purports to prove they are innocent, with no known involvement or connections to the incident.
The fifth man, Omar Ballard, was also convicted in the crime, and was sentenced to 100 years in prison, 59 of which were suspended. He is the only man whose DNA matches that found at the scene, and his confession states that he committed the crime by himself, with none of the other men involved. Forensic evidence is consistent with his story that there were no other participants.
Brown v. MississippiMain article: Brown v. Mississippi
In the United States, the 1936 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Mississippi established conclusively that confessions extracted through the use of physical brutality violate the Due Process Clause. In this case, defendants, Arthur Ellington, Ed Brown and Henry Shields (three black tenant farmers) had been sentenced to death for the murder of Raymond Stewart (a white planter) on March 30, 1934. The convictions had been based solely on confessions obtained through violence:
- "... defendants were made to strip and they were laid over chairs and their backs were cut to pieces with a leather strap with buckles on it, and they were likewise made by the said deputy definitely to understand that the whipping would be continued unless and until they confessed, and not only confessed, but confessed in every matter of detail as demanded by those present; and in this manner the defendants confessed the crime, and, as the whippings progressed and were repeated, they changed or adjusted their confession in all particulars of detail so as to conform to the demands of their torturers. When the confessions had been obtained in the exact form and contents as desired by the mob, they left with the parting admonition and warning that, if the defendants changed their story at any time in any respect from that last stated, the perpetrators of the outrage would administer the same or equally effective treatment.
- "Further details of the brutal treatment to which these helpless prisoners were subjected need not be pursued. It is sufficient to say that in pertinent respects the transcript reads more like pages torn from some medieval account than a record made within the confines of a modern civilization which aspires to an enlightened constitutional government
The Supreme Court concluded: "It would be difficult to conceive of methods more revolting to the sense of justice than those taken to procure the confessions of these petitioners, and the use of the confessions thus obtained as the basis for conviction and sentence was a clear denial of due process.... In the instant case, the trial court was fully advised by the undisputed evidence of the way in which the confessions had been procured.... The court thus denied a federal right fully established and specially set up and claimed, and the judgment must be reversed.
In the Central Park jogger case, on April 19, 1989, five teens aged from 14 to 16 were arrested and each confessed on videotape to the crime of attacking and raping a jogger and implicated each other. They later repudiated these confessions and maintained their innocence. The five were: Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise. In 1989, the police were aware that an unidentified sixth person had left semen on the victim's body. In 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murderer and rapist, admitted that he was responsible for the rape and attack of the jogger. The DNA obtained from the crime scene matched Reyes. New York state justice Charles J. Tejada vacated the convictions of five defendants on December 19, 2002. Yusef Salaam served six and a half years in prison. Kharey Wise was imprisoned until summer 2002, which was when his sentence was completed.
Pizza Hut murder
In 1988 Nancy DePriest was raped and murdered at the Pizza Hut where she worked in Austin, Texas. A coworker, Chris Ochoa, pled guilty to the murder. His friend, Richard Danziger, was convicted of therape. Ochoa confessed to the murder, as well as implicating Danziger in the rape. It was later discovered that the confession had been coerced. The only forensic evidence linking Danziger to the crime scene was a single pubic hair found in the restaurant said to be consistent with his pubic hair type. Although semen evidence had been collected, no DNA analysis was performed at this time. Both men received life sentences. Years later a man by the name of Achim Marino began writing letters from prison claiming he was the actual murderer. The DNA was now finally tested and it did indeed match with Marino. In 2001 Chris Ochoa and Richard Danziger were exonerated and released from prison after 12 years of incarceration.
Cook County, Illinois prosecutors were required to videotape murder confessions, but not interrogations, starting in August 1999. Corethian Bell, who has a diagnosis of mental retardation, said he confessed to the murder of his mother, Netta Bell, because police hit him so hard he was knocked off his chair and because he grew tired and hopeless after being in police custody for more than 50 hours. He said he thought that if he confessed, the interrogations would stop, then he could explain himself to a judge and be set free. With a confession on tape, he was then prosecuted and sent to jail. When the DNA at the crime scene was tested, it matched a serial rapist, who already was in prison for three other violent sexual assaults, all in the same neighborhood as the Netta Bell murder.
Simon Marshall was a Canadian rape suspect who was imprisoned for 5 years before genetic evidence found him innocent. Mental retardation was a factor in his confession.
Jeffrey Mark Deskovic
Jeffrey Mark Deskovic, was convicted in 1990 at age 16, of raping, beating and strangling a high school classmate, even though jurors were told the DNA evidence in the case did not point to him. He was incarcerated for 15 years. He confessed to the crime after hours of an interrogation without being given an opportunity to seek legal counsel.
Michael Crowe confessed to the murder of his younger sister Stephanie Crowe in 1998. Michael, 14 at the time, was targeted by police when he seemed "distant and preoccupied" after Stephanie's body was discovered and the rest of the family grieved. After two days of intense questioning, Michael admitted to killing Stephanie. The confession was videotaped by police, and appeared to be coerced; at times Michael saying things to the effect of, "I'm only saying this because it's what you want to hear."
Joshua Treadway, a friend of Michael's, was questioned and also confessed after many hours of interrogation, while Aaron Houser, a mutual friend of the boys, was questioned and did not actually confess but presented a "hypothetical" and incriminating account of the crime under prompting by police interrogators using the Reid Technique. All three boys subsequently recanted their statements claiming coercion.
Michael Crowe's confession and Aaron Houser's statements to police were later thrown out as coerced by a judge, while part of Josh Treadway's confession was as well. The parts upheld of Treadway's confession later became moot when all charges were dropped against all three boys. This did however present difficulties for prosecutors later charging an unrelated party with the crime whose defense team argued that the boys had been responsible.
The charges were dismissed without prejudice (allowing charges to be reinstated against the boys at a later date) after DNA testing linked a neighborhood transient, Richard Tuite, to her blood. Embarrassed by the revelation, the Escondido police and District Attorney let the case against Tuite languish for years until it was forcibly removed from their jurisdiction and taken over by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and the California Department of Justice. Tuite was convicted of the murder in 2004, and the Crowe family reached a settlement of $7.25 million dollars in 2011. In 2012, Superior Court Judge Kenneth So made the rare ruling that Michael Crowe, Treadway and Houser were factually innocent of the charges, permanently dismissing the City of Escondido case against them.
A TV movie was made out of the story called The Interrogation of Michael Crowe in 2002.
Gary Gauger was sentenced to death for the murders of his parents, Morris, 74, and Ruth, 70, at their McHenry County, Illinois farm in April 1993. He was interrogated for over 21 hours and gave the police ahypothetical statement, and they took it as a confession. His conviction was overturned in 1996 and Gauger was freed. He was pardoned in 2002. Two motorcycle gang members were later convicted of Morris and Ruth Gauger's murders.
Kevin Fox was interrogated for 14 hours by Will County, Illinois police before confessing to the 2004 murder of his 3-year old daughter, Riley, which later turned out to be coerced. The real killer turned out to be Scott Eby, a neighbor living a few miles from the Fox family who was serving a 14-year sentence for sex crimes, thanks to DNA results that had not been tested before.
West Memphis Three
The West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) were convicted for the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys. One month after the murders, police interrogated Misskelley, who has an IQ of 72, for 16 hours before he confessed to the murders, implicating Echols and Baldwin. Misskelley immediately recanted and said he was coerced to confess. Despite that the confession was different from the police reports, Misskelley and Baldwin were sentenced to life without parole and Echols was sentenced to death. For the next 17 years, they maintained their innocence. In August 2011, DNA evidence exonerated them, but prosecutors refused to throw out the convictions and offered them a deal that they plead guilty in exchange for time served. They accepted, but said that they will continue to clear their names and find the real murderer(s).