CrimProf Blog

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

CrimProf Richard Leo Comes Out With New Book

CrimProf Richard Leo (University of San Francisco Law School), with co-author Tom Wells, has just published THE WRONG GUYS: MURDER, FALSE CONFESSIONS, AND THE NORFOLK FOUR (The New Press).
On July 8, 1997, nineteen-year-old sailor Billy Bosko returned from a naval cruise to his home in Norfolk, Virginia, to find his wife on the floor of their bedroom in a pool of blood. Michelle, eighteen, had been raped and stabbed to death the night before. In this gripping tale of justice gone awry, four innocent men
separately confess, under intense police pressure, to a heinous crime that none of them actually committed. As this enthralling story unfolds, the real perpetrator is matched to DNA evidence and convicted, yet three of the men known as the Norfolk Four remain in prison today. The controversy over this case continues to simmer, with the victim's family still convinced of the men's guilt even as growing media attention has exposed the questionable treatment they received at the hands of police officers, prosecutors, and even their own defense attorneys. Barry Scheck has described THE WRONGF GUYS as “a harrowing tale of how four innocent men were wrongly convicted by a deepley flawed legal system that failed to find the truth or dispense justice at virtually every turn.” The Washington Post and the New York Times have both recently written op-eds calling for the Governor of Virgnia to pardon the Norfolk Four.

Leo is also the author of the recently published (2008) POLICE INTERROGATION AND AMERICAN JUSTICE (Harvard University Press), which CrimProf Yale Kamisar (University of Michigan and University of San Diego) has called “the best book on police interrogation I have ever read.”

January 21, 2009 in CrimProfs, False Confessions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nassau to videotape interrogations in major crimes

Nassau police are about to start videotaping all interrogations in homicide and serious robbery cases, a move that both law enforcement officials and defense lawyers say will make prosecutions more fair.

Police and prosecutors said the videotapes will be useful tools at trial, and that they will also help protect police against false allegations that they denied defendants their rights. Defense lawyers also applauded the move, saying that it will protect their clients from coerced confessions and police abuse.

"We don't want to tell jurors what happened," said District Attorney Kathleen Rice at a news conference Friday. "Ideally, we want to show them."

In Suffolk County, police and prosecutors have similar plans, officials there said. Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said in a statement that he hopes to have some video cameras up and running "within three months."

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January 18, 2009 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New details emerge about murder scene, fake confessions

Juror and courtroom spectators learned shocking details about the scene of the Truett Street murder and false leads that led police on a wild goose chase.

By Danny Gallagher, McKinney Courier-Gazette

Jurors in the Raul Cortez trial learned the gruesome details of the crime scene he and Eddie Ray Williams allegedly left behind, and the long trail of false leads left by other suspects that threw McKinney police off course for more than four years.

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January 15, 2009 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Final arguments for release of 911 call set for Monday

A Madison police detective testified Friday that release of the Brittany Zimmermann 911 call would jeopardize the search for her killer, though a public safety expert countered that release of such information typically helps solve homicides.

Madison detective John Summers said the recordings are evidence in the Zimmermann homicide case. Therefore there is "no question" they should not be released, Summers said.

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December 21, 2008 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Interrogation Upheld in Country Where Right to Counsel Unavailable

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Nov. 24 upheld the admission of statements elicited overseas by U.S. agents from suspects in the custody of a country that does not provide a right to counsel during interrogations. “[I]nsofar as Miranda might apply to interrogations conducted overseas, that decision is satisfied when a U.S. agent informs a foreign detainee of his rights under the U.S. Constitution when questioned overseas,” the court said (In re Terrorist Bombings of U.S. Embassies (Fifth Amendment Challenges), 2d Cir., No. 01-1535-cr(L), 11/24/08).

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December 9, 2008 in Criminal Law, False Confessions, Homeland Security, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Spare the innocent

Another innocent man has been freed. When will state legislators respond to what can only be called a crisis of wrongful conviction in New York? Perhaps in January, when Democrats take over the State Senate.

Albany has been woefully uninterested in this subject. New York has the nation’s third-highest number of people exonerated, but it has done little to keep the law from devouring more innocent suspects. The main obstacle has been the State Senate, where Republicans have shown virtually no interest in reforming the system.

It’s not as though this is a minor issue. Twenty-four New Yorkers have been exonerated through DNA testing, according to The Innocence Project, and 13 of thoses cases involved witness misidentification. That’s how Steven Barnes wound up in prison almost 20 years ago, convicted of a murder he did not commit.

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December 1, 2008 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Feds punch hole in 'perjury trap,' statute of limitations excuses

That was the $7 million answer that a special prosecutor delivered two years ago in the case of former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, accused with his men of torturing false confessions from as many as 148 defendants, most of them minorities, in the 1980s.

Attorneys for those who said they were tortured had argued that, even if the statute of limitations had expired for the torture, Burge and other officers and prosecutors who took part or cooperated in any such coerced confessions could be charged with lying under oath in civil suits.

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October 22, 2008 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ethics Of Criminal Investigations

Talk of the Nation, August 14, 2008 · The recent anthrax investigation has brought to light the aggressive tactics of the FBI. It brought on questions about how far investigations should go and whether hardball tactics should remain legal.


Clint Van Zandt, former FBI agent and behavioral scientist for the FBI Academy. Van Zandt also wrote Facing Down Evil: Life on the Edge as an FBI Hostage Negotiator.

Lee Lofland, author of Police Procedure and Investigation, A Guide For Writers [Mark Godsey]

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August 26, 2008 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Changes Encouraged to Prevent False Confessions

There have been at least 56 wrongful convictions in New York State including those of Martin H. Tankleff and Jeffrey Mark Deskovic. Of those, at least 23 since 1991 have been based on DNA evidence — seven in the last eight years alone.

On Wednesday, the New York State Senate Democratic Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform held a forum

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July 4, 2008 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Man's Confession Is Impossible

061308greene1_t220 An inmate who confessed a 14-year-old Knoxville slaying was in a mental health facility at the time of the killing, according to records unearthed by a defense attorney.Ronald E. Greene faces a second-degree murder charge for a 1994 slaying committed while Greene was in the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute undergoing a court-ordered evaluation, records obtained by defense attorney Steve Sams show.

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June 18, 2008 in False Confessions | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)