The Truth About False Confessions and Advocacy Scholarship

By Richard A. Leo / Criminal Law Bulletin, on 1 January 2001

In 1998 Richard A. Leo and Richard J. Ofshe published a study of false confession cases entitled, The Consequences of False Confessions: Deprivations of Liberty and Miscarriages of Justice in the Age of Psychological Interrogation, which drew a response from Paul Cassell (1999), The Guilty and the Innocent : An Examination of Alleged Cases of Wrongful Conviction from False Confessions. In this article, the authors demonstrate that Cassell s article misreports the research and analysis contained in Leo and Ofshes 1998 article, and that Cassell s attempt to challenge Leo and Ofshes classifications of nine out of sixty false confessions is erroneous because Cassell excludes or presents an incomplete picture of important facts in his case summaries, selectively ignores enormous inconsistencies, implausibilities and/or contradictions in the prosecution s cases, and fails to acknowledge the existence of substantial exculpatory, if not dispositive, evidence. To illustrate the problems and biases in Cassell s commentary, this article discusses at length one of Cassell s challenges, the Barry Lee Fairchild case, in the main body of the article and in a detailed appendix analyzes the eight other cases (Joseph Giarratano, Paul Ingram, Richard Lapointe, Jessie Misskelley, Bradley Page, James Harry Reyos, Linda Stangel, and Martin Tankleff). Leo and Ofshe provide a point by point refutation of Cassell s assertions in all nine cases, demonstrating that all nine individuals were, as originally classified, almost certainly innocent of the crimes to which they had confessed.

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  • Countries list United States
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