I was watching one of my true-crime shows yesterday (forget which one), when the subject of the episode turned out to be a couple of men who actually didn't do the crime for which they'd been imprisoned for 13 years.
Now this was a rerun from 2002, so this happened a while back, but it went something like this:
A pretty, young blonde was raped and murdered inside a pizza establishment. The police searched for her attacker and hit on the idea that maybe it was these two guys. So they brought the guys in for questioning. They said they didn't do it. The one guy's girlfriend gave him a solid alibi. The other guy? Well, they grilled him for two days and at the end of the two days, he confessed. And he named his friend as his accomplice. They were both convicted and sent to prison.
Flash forward to 2000 when a convicted freak confessed to killing a young, blonde woman inside a pizza establishment years before.
The Innocence Project got involved. They had an independent lab re-test all the evidence, and discovered that the DNA didn't match the two men convicted, but it sure did match the convicted freak. So these two men - one of whom confessed to the police years ago - we set free.
Except the friend - the one who didn't confess? He'd been attacked while he was in prison and now he's brain damaged to the point where he will need constant care for the rest of his life.
As for the guy who confessed, he'll have to live with that for the rest of his life, but it's still a better deal that his buddy. Why did he confess? Well, the police officers involved threatened him with death row if he didn't confess. They threatened to make sure he got a cell with a man who would rape him if he didn't confess. And they promised the guy he could get a lighter sentence if he just told them what they wanted to hear. After two days of constant grilling, he gave in and confessed.
The guy who actually did it was on parole for some other crime. When he was released for that, he vowed that he would kill the first woman he could. It turned out to be that poor blonde girl. In the interview, he seemed pretty pleased with himself. Oh, and when they caught him, he was already serving time for something else.
The detective who cooked up the idea that he could badger a young man into confessing, and the officers who helped? They declined to be interviewed, but I hope they paid for what they did. I know the police have a difficult job getting at the truth, but I think in some cases they forget that the truth is what they're actually after and instead go for a conviction at any cost.
What do you think? Would you ever confess to a crime you didn't commit? What would make you forget your innocence and go to jail instead?