A New York man who had his conviction overturned in October after spending 25 years in prison for a crime he maintains he didn’t commit is back on the offensive this week as he continues his appeal for full exoneration and reiterates his claim to innocence.
In a televised interview which aired last night on
CBS News NY
, Johnny Hincapie told
‘ Lou Young that he only confessed to the 1990 murder of a tourist because he was coerced by New York police officers during an interrogation which at times became physically abusive. Hincapie was among seven young men convicted in relation to the murder of 22-year-old Brian Watkins who was fatally stabbed during a robbery inside a subway station.
“They didn’t beat the truth out of me; they beat a false, coerced story into me,” the now 45- year-old Hincapie explained. “[The detective] pulled my hair, he smacked me in my face, he placed his foot on my chest, he kicked me to the floor.”
has long noted that the reasons for why people falsely confess remain both “complex and varied.” No matter the motive, however, all false confessions tend to follow a common thread: “that complying with the police by saying that they committed the crime in question will be more beneficial than continuing to maintain their innocence.”
“[I thought] it would get me to go back home,” Hincapie confirmed. “That’s what they told me —that by memorizing the story and confessing to it to another, as he said—quote-unquote—“pretty lady” in another room, that I would go right back home—and I believed him.”
There are numerous factors that can contribute to false confessions, including duress, coercion, intoxication, diminished capacity, mental impairment, ignorance of the law, fear of violence, the actual infliction of harm, the threat of a harsh sentence and misunderstanding the situation. Meanwhile, confessions from juveniles are often unreliable as young people “can be easy to manipulate and are not always fully aware of their situation,” according to the Innocence Project.
For his part, Hincapie was 18 at the time Watkins was killed.
The initial investigation into Watkins’ murder and Hincapie’s own confession also came amid a period of growing apprehension throughout out New York as the city was inundated by a historic crime wave.
In a recent article covering Hincapie’s release,
New York Times
pointed out that Watkins’ killing became “a symbol of the pervasive and often random street violence that plagued New York during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when crack dealing was rampant and the city had more than 2,200 murders a year.” The Watkins murder, in fact, contributed to “a political uproar” which led to an expanded NYPD and an aggressive “crackdown on crime,” reports the
“People said ‘just do anything to bring crime down,’” Hincapie’s attorney, Ron Kuby, told
. “Get it done.”
Beyond his claims of having falsely confessed, Hincapie’s appeal for a full exoneration is now being buttressed by the testimony of three witnesses who say he was never at the scene of the crime. Nevertheless, Hincapie, who remains free on bail, continues to await a decision on whether or not he’ll be retried for murder.
Watch the full interview