CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Freed Man Testifies About The Reality of False Confessions

From Seventeen years ago, Christopher Ochoa told a Texas jury exactly how he and a friend repeatedly raped 20-year-old Nancy DePriest and then shot her dead at her workplace. But Ochoa's story was a lie — a total lie. He had been threatened with the death penalty by a police detective if he did not admit to the murder. The fact that Ochoa confessed falsely did not come to light until 2000, four years after the real killer told police that he was responsible for the young woman's death.

Today, Ochoa is testifying in Los Angeles at a hearing of the state's Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice about the ramifications of their experience for California. In particular, they want to express their strong feelings about a subject that many people find difficult to grasp: that innocent people sometimes really do confess to crimes they did not commit.

"Cases like this reveal in very dramatic terms that this does happen — not just with people who are mentally ill or of limited intelligence or otherwise vulnerable, such as children," said  University of Wisconsin School of Law CrimProf Keith A. Findley, who played an instrumental role in securing freedom for Ochoa and Danziger. "It happens with mentally healthy, intelligent people like Chris Ochoa," who last month graduated from the law school where Findley teaches, the professor said.

Indeed, of the 180 inmates in the United States exonerated by DNA testing in the last two decades, 44 had falsely confessed, said New York attorney Barry Scheck, a co-founder of the Innocence Project at New York's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law who also played a key role in the case.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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Often times the judicial process appears more concerned with procedure than fairness. However, when an innocent individual, being interrogated for a crime under an unconstitutional, unfair and threatening show of authority by Officers is manipulated into confessing to a crime he did not commit, there is an obvious starting point of procedure already working against him at that point. We must remember, "Innocent until proven guilty" is supposed to be decided within the confines of a court room, not in a station house. I applaud Mr. Ochoa for his courage to tell his tragic story. I hope that it will illuminate the dark shadow that some citizens have allowed to cast on the malady of wrongly-accused reality. It is my opinion that one in a situation such as Mr. Ochoa was in at the time the Officers were threatening him with Death Penalty fears, and telling him how he would incessently be raped by other inmates, and creating a most unbearable probability situation, that any other person, just as intelligent and sane as Ochoa, may succomb to the antics of the Officers and give a false confession as well.

Posted by: ginger killian eades | Apr 6, 2007 1:52:43 AM

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