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Tags conflict of interest , contaminated memory , false confessions , forensics

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Old 23rd January 2021, 05:24 AM   #1
Chris_Halkides
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Beatrice Six case

I have mentioned this case in other threads, but it deserves its own. Of the Beatrice, Nebraska Six, only Joseph White maintained his innocence. The other five took plea deals and some actually thought that they took part in the crime. DNA testing many years later identified the true rapist/murderer. The New Yorker has a long read on the case, "Remembering the Murder You Didn't Commit," which discusses the false memory aspects, and John Ferak wrote a book, Failure of Justice.

This case has several aspects worthy of note. For one thing a local therapist, among whom had treated several of the six, also worked in the county sheriff's office as a deputy. Whether or not he should have been part of the investigation is a good question. Joyce Gilchrist, the infamous forensic worker from Oklahoma, apparently made an error regarding the serology of the case that further confused an already troubled investigation. The monetary award in this case is putting great strain on the finances of Gage County. Some in the town still think that the six are guilty, believing that the six killed Helen Wilson and that Bruce Allen Smith, the DNA donor, committed necrophilia.
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Old 23rd January 2021, 06:59 AM   #2
Elaedith
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Internalized false confessions are the most difficult type for people to accept. I always do the topic of false memories first, because those who aren't aware of research on the fallibility of human cognition and the limits of introspection have trouble with the idea.

I had one student come to see me in office hours quite upset because she didn't believe it was possible for an innocent person to come to believe, as a result of suggestion, that they had committed a crime. She had no trouble with other types of false confessions or false memories in general.

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Old 23rd January 2021, 07:10 AM   #3
Chris_Halkides
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internalized false confessions

The Norfolk Four case and this case (perhaps even more) are remarkable examples of people who come to believe that they are guilty. One of the Beatrice Six still half-believes (for lack of a better way to say it) that she smothered Helen Wilson with a pillow. The Norfolk Four case almost deserves its own thread, but IMO would not be off topic in this one.
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Old 1st February 2021, 01:42 PM   #4
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The family of the victim is not convinced

I am almost done reading Failure of Justice. It was not a surprise to learn that some of Helen Wilson's relatives still believe that the six had something to do with the crime. This is often, but by no means always, the case. It was a surprise to learn that at first they accepted that Bruce Allen Smith was solely responsible (based on DNA evidence), then later changed their minds. Perhaps someone in LE spoke with them.
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Old 2nd February 2021, 04:11 PM   #5
Planigale
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
Internalized false confessions are the most difficult type for people to accept. I always do the topic of false memories first, because those who aren't aware of research on the fallibility of human cognition and the limits of introspection have trouble with the idea.

I had one student come to see me in office hours quite upset because she didn't believe it was possible for an innocent person to come to believe, as a result of suggestion, that they had committed a crime. She had no trouble with other types of false confessions or false memories in general.
A good example is this Icelandic case where six people confessed to murders they did not do and subsequently even when evidence showed they were innocent found it hard to accept.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27290883 (excellent read)
or
https://www.outofthinairfilm.com (longer movie)

An interesting side light is that a junior detective in this case was Gisli Gudjonsson who subsequently became a Professor of psychology in London, and did a lot of research on false confessions.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...17/law.ukcrime
He helped to develop the structured interview techniques the English police use to minimise risks of false confessions.
https://www.app.college.police.uk/ap...-interviewing/
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Old 2nd February 2021, 04:22 PM   #6
Elaedith
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Originally Posted by Planigale View Post
A good example is this Icelandic case where six people confessed to murders they did not do and subsequently even when evidence showed they were innocent found it hard to accept.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27290883 (excellent read)
or
https://www.outofthinairfilm.com (longer movie)

An interesting side light is that a junior detective in this case was Gisli Gudjonsson who subsequently became a Professor of psychology in London, and did a lot of research on false confessions.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...17/law.ukcrime
He helped to develop the structured interview techniques the English police use to minimise risks of false confessions.
https://www.app.college.police.uk/ap...-interviewing/
Yes, I use his work quite a lot in the course I'm teaching. Lots of the research on false confessions is based in the US where the situation is rather different because of the Reid technique and generally less restrictions on police practice. It makes it harder to sort out the extent to which findings would apply in other contexts; the risk of a false confession is often an interaction between individual and situational factors.
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Old 2nd February 2021, 07:56 PM   #7
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solitary confinement

"Now a leading forensic psychologist he [Gisli Gudjonsson] has worked on many of the major miscarriages of justice in UK - such as the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four." There is thread on these cases, too. However, I thought that for the majority of these confessions, it was more about police brutality.

"Gudjon spent 14 months in solitary confinement, but even Erla was in isolation for 105 days, away from her young daughter.
During this time she was interviewed over 100 times and her lawyer was only present on three occasions. These interviews could go on throughout the day and into the night." I will again state my objection to solitary confinement unless there is simply is no other way to keep the prisoner or others safe.

"“His head was put into a washing bucket of water and he was told if he didn’t confess he would be drowned." It sounds like waterboarding.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 08:40 AM   #8
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While some are indeed just police brutality, there actually is also a kind that just shows up to confess some crime they couldn't have committed. Sometimes you get something like two dozen people just coming to turn themselves in for some high profile murder.

It's called a "Confessing Sam".

Sam being the name of the English sailor who insisted that he started the great fire of London, by throwning a fire bomb through a bakery's window, while the crown was trying to convince him that he couldn't have possibly have done it. On account of such details as that:

1. That's not where the fire started. Not the least because
2. That building had no windows, or not to that street.
3. Sam was crippled on account of scurvy at the time, and couldn't have thrown anything.
4. If you paid attention and went, "wait... scurvy?"... yeah. The ship Sam was on didn't arrive in London yet, and wouldn't arrive until a couple of days after the fire. And frankly, nobody can throw THAT far.

Nevertheless, he maintained being guilty to the bitter end and eventually they just hanged him and were done with it.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 09:31 AM   #9
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[quote=HansMustermann;13383251]
Quote:
Nevertheless, he maintained being guilty to the bitter end and eventually they just hanged him and were done with it.
While an awful miscarriage of justice, I confess to finding the idea blackly funny that they eventually just hanged him because he would.not.shut.up.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 12:38 PM   #10
Planigale
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[quote=Reformed Offlian;13383331]
Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post


While an awful miscarriage of justice, I confess to finding the idea blackly funny that they eventually just hanged him because he would.not.shut.up.
English law did not accept confessions as evidence until fairly late. (Victorian times I think). Confessions could be used as evidence against others, but not the confessor. Pre-rights times confessions were thought too unreliable to be evidence. It is interesting to reflect on the fact that Eighteenth century law accepted confessions as unreliable, but now it is a struggle to convince people just how unreliable they maybe.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 01:46 PM   #11
Chris_Halkides
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threats, beatings, mental health, among other factors

Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
"Now a leading forensic psychologist he [Gisli Gudjonsson] has worked on many of the major miscarriages of justice in UK - such as the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four." There is thread on these cases, too. However, I thought that for the majority of these confessions, it was more about police brutality.
I should have been more specific when I wrote "for the majority of these confessions." I meant beatings in the cases of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, and possibly some of the Maguire Seven. In the related case of Judith Ward, the length of time and possibly sleep deprivation contributed to her confessing, and there is evidence to the effect that she was a bit of a fabulist in her youth, from what I can gather (perhaps she was a tiny bit like Confessing Sam in that regard).

In the case of the Beatrice Six, a police psychologist pushed the idea of recovered memory, not wholly unlike the case in Iceland (I had all but forgotten about this case). Another major factor for one or two of the Beatrice Six (James Dean and possibly one other) was the threat of the death penalty.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 04:41 PM   #12
Samson
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Netflix has a film:

Thoroughbreds

That seems relevant to the subject though not everyone's taste maybe.
Also shades of Jonathan Swift and the Land of the Houyhnhnms.
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Old 3rd February 2021, 06:15 PM   #13
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Reformed Offlian View Post
While an awful miscarriage of justice, I confess to finding the idea blackly funny that they eventually just hanged him because he would.not.shut.up.
Well, technically they hanged him for arson
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