Three Navy sailors who had confessed to killing Michelle Moore-Bosko of Virginia eight years ago and are serving life sentences filed a petition maintaining their innocence and requesting a full pardon, reports Time magazine. The three contend that they made false confessions after Norfolk homicide detectives subjected them to hours of harsh and manipulative questioning. The three were part of a larger group of eight men who were charged in the. Just one had any material evidence linking him to the scene of the crime.
The Innocence Project is helping the three who deny involvement. It is one of the latest cases in which DNA evidence seems to contradict previous criminal confessions. New DNA sequencing technology has allowed the justice system to right more than 150 wrongful convictions–and almost a quarter of those had been based on a false confession. The most high-profile example is the 1989 Central Park jogger case, in which five teenagers who had confessed to raping a woman were cleared 13 years later after DNA analysis of evidence couldn’t link them to the crime scene. A 2002 Northwestern University study showed that 59 percent of all miscarriages of justice in homicide investigations in Illinois involved false confessions. Despite such evidence, few confessions are ever thrown out. Social psychologist Richard Ofshe of the University of California, Berkeley, an expert in false confessions, says that only recently have juries been allowed to hear testimony about the phenomenon, which can occur as a result of coercion, exhaustion, or mental impairment. The juries in the Norfolk trials were not among those. The solution may be requiring police to videotape all interrogations and confessions of suspects in capital cases, as is the law in Minnesota, Illinois, Alaska, and Maine.