False Confessions

BY Herschel Smith
1 month, 1 week ago

It happens every day in America.  Hundreds of thousands of men are in prison for false confessions. Here’s a particularly bad example.

Two months ago, Robert Davis was getting ready to set up chairs for Bible study when he received some life-altering news: Within hours, he’d be walking out of Coffeewood Correctional Center, a free man for the first time in nearly 13 years.

Davis, 31, stepped out of prison December 21 to face television cameras, probably as surreal an experience as his last night of freedom in February 2003, when he was surrounded by police, slammed to the ground and handcuffed.

He was 18 years old then, a senior at Western Albemarle High and by his own admission, “naive.”

He didn’t know that he didn’t have to talk to police without a lawyer about a horrific double murder that had happened a few days earlier in his Crozet neighborhood. He didn’t know that police can lie to suspects to obtain a confession. And he didn’t know that after hours of a middle-of-the-night interrogation when he just wanted to sleep, if he told the officer what the cop wanted to hear, he wouldn’t be able to straighten things out in the morning.

Davis wasn’t familiar with the term “false confession” in 2003, and he didn’t realize he would become the face of the phenomenon to which juveniles and the exhausted are particularly susceptible. Nor could he have guessed that his story would be the subject of a national television show that aired on “Dateline NBC” February 14.

Robert Davis has learned a lot since 2003.

Snow was on the ground the morning of February 19, 2003, when the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department got the call of a blaze in Crozet Crossing, a subdivision of entry-level homes.

At 6047 Cling Ln., once the fire was out, responders discovered a sinister scene: The body of Nola Charles, 41, known as Ann to her family and friends, in a bunk bed upstairs, with her arms duct-taped behind her. It took Albemarle police forensics technician Larry Claytor a while to notice the charred handle of a knife in her back.

Another shock awaited in the smoldering house. In Charles’ bedroom, the body of her 3-year-old son, William Thomas Charles, was found under debris. He’d died of carbon monoxide poisoning from smoke inhalation.

Almost immediately, police focused on a couple of neighborhood teens: Rocky Fugett, 19, a senior at Western Albemarle, and his sister Jessica, 15, a freshman. During interrogation, the two started throwing out names of other students to deflect the blame, both later told a reporter. One of those names was Robert Davis.

In a 2011 interview at Sussex II State Prison, Rocky Fugett admitted that he’d picked on Davis, and said he never dreamed Davis would confess to being there the night Charles was killed.

In the world of television crime, wrongful convictions are a hot topic, as evidenced by the radio podcast “Serial” and Netflix’s “Making a Murderer.”

An expert in false confession who appeared in the “Dateline” episode as well as in “Making a Murderer,” Northwestern law school’s Laura Nirider, who is the director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, has been aware of Davis’ case for years, and sent a 64-page report supporting his petition for clemency in 2012. She has called his interrogation “one of the most coercive confessions I’ve seen.”

It was after midnight when Davis was arrested at gunpoint, and almost 2am when the interrogation by Albemarle Police Detective Randy Snead began.

Snead had been the resource officer at Ivy Creek, the special ed school Davis had attended, and Davis says he trusted him.

Davis denied he had anything to do with the Charles murders dozens of times, according to the video of his six-hour interview. He offered to take a polygraph to prove he was telling the truth multiple times. And he told police if they were going to arrest him, to go ahead and do it so he could go to sleep.

Police widely use the Reid Technique of interviewing and interrogation, which says if a suspect asks to take a lie detector test, that should be taken as a sign of innocence, according to Nirider. That alone should have been a red flag to investigators, she says, but there were other details that made Davis’ interrogation a textbook case of false confession.

She points out how police fed him the details of the crime. Snead lied and told Davis police had evidence he was at the crime scene. He threatened Davis with the “ultimate punishment,” and said Davis’ mother could go to jail if he didn’t tell the truth. Finally, at nearly 7am, Davis said, “What can I say I did to get me out of this?”

“The young and those with mental limitations are most vulnerable to making false confessions,” says Nirider.

She notes a recent study that shows the sleep-deprived are way more likely to falsely confess to a crime. Exhaustion “absolutely plays a role,” she says. “There is a correlation.”

UVA law professor Brandon Garrett has examined many cases of false confession, and points out the interviews in those cases lasted over three hours. If someone is exhausted, he says, he thinks if he just goes along with the interrogation, he can clear it up later.

Today, Davis says the overriding emotion during that interview was fear. “I was scared shitless,” he says.

With Davis’ confession and the testimony of the Fugetts putting him at the crime scene, his attorney, Steve Rosenfield, says it was a “grave risk” to go to trial. He feared a jury would ask the question most people ask—why would you confess to a crime you didn’t commit?—and give Davis a life sentence.

When the commonwealth offered a deal, Rosenfield advised Davis to enter an Alford plea, in which he maintains his innocence but acknowledges the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him, and take a 23-year prison sentence.

Davis says it’s hard to recall a lot about entering that plea because he was on medication for anxiety and depression. Mainly, he thought, “At least I get to go home eventually.”

“I told Robert one day the Fugett kids might tell the truth,” says Rosenfield. “It took a long time—with Jessica especially.” She recanted her allegations about Davis in 2012.

Two years after Davis was convicted in 2004, Rosenfield received a letter from Rocky Fugett that said he had some information that would be helpful to Davis. Fugett signed an affidavit saying Davis had nothing to do with the slayings, and in 2012, Rosenfield sent a petition for clemency to then-governor Bob McDonnell.

There it lingered until McDonnell’s last day in office, when he denied the petition. According to Rosenfield, McDonnell’s administration conducted no investigation of the petition’s claims.

That was a particularly bleak time for Davis. “It was crushing having to wait so long and even more crushing when Bob McDonnell denied it without doing any investigation,” he says.

When Davis walked out of Coffeewood the day Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a conditional pardon, he pointed to Rosenfield and said, “If it weren’t for that man there fighting for me, I wouldn’t be out right now.”

He’s probably right. Rosenfield submitted six volumes of documents supporting the clemency petition. “There wouldn’t be a realistic mechanism if a prisoner tried to do that,” he says.

Rosenfield was Davis’ court-appointed lawyer in 2003, but since Davis took the Alford plea in 2004, he’s been Davis’ pro bono lawyer. He estimates he’s spent between 1,500 and 2,000 hours working on the case, legal expertise worth about $600,000. And that doesn’t include the couple of thousand dollars he’s spent out of pocket.

“I’m glad he’s out,” says the attorney. “It’s a lot less work.”

Years in prison, more than half a million dollars in legal time, the innocent get punished, the guilty go free, and the cops and attorneys couldn’t care less because they got their conviction.

By feeding him details, threatening his mother, lying about other things, all to a sleep deprived adolescent. This is why the Scriptures require the testimony of two or more witnesses to convict a man of a crime, and self incrimination isn’t allowed by the Bible.  Because our judicial system no longer recognizes the Scriptures as God’s Holy law, they make up their own system of “righteousness,” a false righteousness in God’s eyes.  A damning righteousness in God’s eyes.  For more, see Rousas J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law.

Torture could become the norm without Biblical law, and while they didn’t inflict physical pain on the boy, it was a form of torture.  Torture is simply not allowed by the Scriptures, and only wicked men do it, some in the name of local security, and some in the name of national security.

Teach your children, wife, and even relatives well.  Do not talk to the police.  Explain to them why.  The Scriptures do not allow self incrimination.  Do not be naive, and do not be trusting.  Do not cooperate with your own false imprisonment.


Comments

  1. On February 28, 2020 at 5:54 am, Matt said:

    Saw this article awhile back on how policing went from private to government and physical coercion turned into plea bargaining. Interesting bit of history: https://mises.org/wire/coerced-confessions-how-plea-bargain-replaced-physical-torture

  2. On February 28, 2020 at 7:49 am, Mark Matis said:

    “Law Enforcement” and the “Legal” system at its finest in the West. Why pretend to be surprised???

  3. On February 28, 2020 at 9:38 am, X said:

    …And this is different from the Soviet Union… exactly HOW? It’s straight out of Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon.”

    (And remember… NO cop will EVER lose a night’s sleep over this kind of thing. He’ll just shrug it off and say “I didn’t convict him, the jury did.” Remember that when they start enforcing the coming gun bans).

    Just keep saying the Pledge and repeating “Ah live in the freest country in the world! Yup! Muh Freedom!”

  4. On February 28, 2020 at 9:49 am, I R A Darth Aggie said:

    And this is different from the Soviet Union… exactly HOW?

    Because in Soviet Russia, you were already guilty. You had a trial to find out what your sentence would be. Or, as Che is supposed to have said, execute him now, and if necessary, we can have a trial tomorrow.

  5. On February 28, 2020 at 12:29 pm, penses said:

    “Because in Soviet Russia, you were already guilty.”

    It is no different in the USSRA.

    “As reported here on the Gateway Pundit a couple of weeks ago, the antifa terrorists once again took over the streets of Portland to cause havoc, this time focusing their rage toward independent media. The event was originally to be a counter-protest to a KKK rally, but the KKK canceled and antifa attacked several videographers, pepper spraying them and chasing them down the streets. All the while Portland police in riot gear stood near the steps of their headquarters and watched it all happen. When the police finally jumped in and made an arrest, they arrested one of the videographers, Brandon Farley, who was running away from the threatening antifa gang.” Another innocent man will go to jail after spending all his life savings defending himself after “committing” a NON-CRIME.

    If there are not any laws on the books to put you in jail they will make them up and find an inquisitor in black robes to put you away.

    Everybody on the right is a target. Trump is not in jail because the UNIPARTY still has use for him. When he becomes useless to them they will throw him to the wolves.

  6. On February 29, 2020 at 1:41 am, Papa said:

    Matt,
    Thanks for the Mises link.
    Does Baer approve of all this bad think?
    https://www.foxnews.com/politics/barr-anti-cop-attitudes-resisting-police

  7. On February 29, 2020 at 1:57 am, BRVTVS said:

    @ Papa

    Barr is peddling the war on cops narrative. It is a false claim. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2h5CUudR_8

  8. On February 29, 2020 at 9:33 am, JoeFour said:

    Here’s an excellent article that raises the question of whether we should abolish the police altogether given the abuses and harassment they seem to commit on a daily basis–

    https://thefreethoughtproject.com/abolishing-police-force-crazy/

  9. On February 29, 2020 at 10:20 am, penses said:

    Barr is a liar and deep state, as are most of Trumps appointments. B—-h McConnell has kept the Senate in session since the day Trump was inaugurated to keep him from putting his own people in place to clear out the swamp. He also has a lease on another female Republican, Lindsey Grahamnesty. There will be zero investigations into the deep state because the RINOs have as much to lose as the commies. Judicial Watch, an organization funded by private donations, is doing the job the DOJ isn’t doing.

    At killedbypolice.net they have a police shooting data base. In 2019 1,004 civilians were killed by the “police.” In 2017 it was 1,147. Over 20,000 dogs are shot every year by “law enforcement” simply because the killer did not want the distraction. In several cases children were shot and killed instead of the dog because of lack of training and contempt by cops for other human lives. High caliber guns, low caliber intellect.

    I don’t call them police because they are policing nothing. They enforce the law selectively and with malice, they do not ensure the safety or the health or the possessions of citizens and they do not prevent crime and, in most cases, stand down during civil disorders. If they are paid to do nothing why have them at all. They are an enforcement arm of a state’s revenue department collecting money from citizens at random at the point of a gun.

  10. On March 2, 2020 at 1:57 pm, Strelnikov said:

    Or, to put it more plainly:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTurSi0LhJs

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This article is filed under the category(s) Police and was published February 27th, 2020 by Herschel Smith.

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