False confessions in the spotlight

Thanks to Sentencing Law & Policy:

PBS Frontline has been giving lots of attention to criminal justice systems this fall. . . .  This week Frontline will broadcast a new documentary "The Confessions," which examines the case of the "Norfolk Four" involving a quartet of Navy men who were wrongfully convicted after being coerced into giving false confessions.

A preview is at this link.

All four sailors are now out of prison — one served his sentence, and the other three were granted conditional pardons last summer, after some 11 years in prison.  But the men were not exonerated as felons or sex offenders.  “I basically built myself a new cell, my bedroom, … because that’s where I’m safe,” Derek Tice, another of the “Norfolk Four,” tells FRONTLINE.  “All I did was trade one cell for another.”

In the press release for the show they mention the detective who got these confessions to be  Glenn Ford. SL&P has this rather interesting piece.

Earlier this summer, Detective Glenn Ford was indicted for extorting money from defendants in exchange for getting them a favorable treatment.   He was tried in U.S. District Court in Norfolk and took the stand in his own defense.  On Oct. 27, Ford was found guilty on two of four extortion charges and one charge of lying to the FBI.  Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2011.

Here are some media reports on the Glenn Ford prosecution:  here, here, and here.  One notes that,

In the Lafayette Grill case in 1990, he coerced confessions from three teenagers who later had the charges dropped against them when it was determined they could not possibly have been at the crime scene.

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2 responses to “False confessions in the spotlight”

  1. Dwight Sullivan says:

    My Liege,

    I understand that there was an interesting presentation at the Army JAG School’s Criminal Law New Developments Course last week arguing basically that the false confession phenomenon is itself false and that false confession evidence should be inadmissible under Daubert. I also heard that the presentation itself relied, as least in part, on easily impeached statistical methods. I wasn’t at the course — perhaps one of your readers who was could fill us in.

  2. Mark Gardner says:

    I heard the presentation. The presenter acknowledged that false confessions occur but said that there is no reliable way of knowing how often. The presentation was more focused on those researchers who farm themselves out as false confession experts, i.e. Richard Leo and Saul Kassin, and suggested that the research in their field (described as two questionable college student psychology experiments) does not meet the Daubert standard. The advice was to look to trained psychologists and psychiatrists to provide expert advice regarding susceptibility to interrogation techniques and confessions.

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