The “right” answer: anatomy of a confession
A New York City judge dropped murder charges last week against Ozem Goldwire, a Brooklyn man with developmental disabilities who found his sister dead in 2006 and called 911 to report the crime. After 17 hours of interrogation, Goldwire confessed to the crime, and now defense attorneys, a state psychologist and the judge agree that the situation in this case was ripe for a false confession. The prosecutor agreed to drop the charges after the psychologist issued her report. Goldwire had been in jail for a year waiting for trial.
When Mr. Goldwire was in Rikers Island, his lawyer, Gary Farrell, told prosecutors that the confession was unreliable, given his background. Kenneth Taub and Robert Lamb of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office hired a psychologist, Kathy F. Yates, who found that he was highly suggestible, eager to please. “It is likely that he wanted to meet the needs of the detectives as a well as to bring the interview to an end,” she wrote.
No audio or video record exists of Mr. Goldwire’s interactions with detectives during the 17 hours leading up to his confession.
“Here we had the ingredients of the perfect storm for false confession,” Judge Gustin L. Reichbach said in court last week, dismissing the charges at the request of the prosecution and the defense. “You’re actually innocent of this crime.”
Read the story here and listen to Goldwire’s 911 call
. (New York Times, 6/13/07, Membership Required)
More than one-quarter
of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing involved a false confession. In countless other confession cases, like Goldwire’s, charges are thrown out before trial because the interrogation methods were questionable.
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