How could so many people admit in vivid detail to a horrendous crime that they didn’t commit? A murder case from Beatrice, Ne. in which six people were wrongfully convicted in 1989 of the slaying of a 68-year-old woman is a new national record for the most people exonerated in one case by DNA evidence, says the Omaha World-Herald. Saul Kassin, a professor of psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, and law Prof. Richard Leo of the the University of San Francisco, said the Beatrice case had an unusual aspect: the role played during interrogations by a police psychologist who previously had served as private therapist to some of those being questioned.
About 25 percent of the cases where DNA evidence has led to exonerations involve false confessions. In the Beatrice 6 case, five of the defendants acknowledged their guilt, and at least four gave detailed statements about who was involved and why they would brutally attack and murder Helen Wilson. On Nov. 7, authorities announced that DNA from the case matched that of a now-deceased Oklahoma City man. The state is seeking pardons for five defendants and has declined to seek a new trial for the sixth. Kassin and Leo said safeguards against false confessions include requiring videotaping of police interviews in their entirety and making sure that confessions match facts known only to police.