I was watching a televised debate from Nevada when the moderator called out one of the participants for making a blatantly untrue statement about her opponent. The moderator asked her pointedly to do one of two things: Either acknowledge the lie and apologize, or produce proof. As producing proof was impossible, there was only one ethical and rational course of action: acknowledge and apologize.
Nope. She responded by repeating the lie. The moderator, her opponent and a good percentage of the audience was stunned – but not her supporters. It wasn't that she didn't know that she was lying, but she also had been "trained" by political strategists to never engage in rational discussions. Rather, simply say the same phrases over and over, regardless of their falsity. Facts and veracity are inconsequential and irrelevant to the essential goal – using the lie to mislead, confuse, and control.
Is it any different with false confessions? Both are lies intended to deceive for personal gain. Yes, staying alive can be "personal gain" when you are facing a death penalty for a crime you didn't commit, but if you confess you can get life in prison.
In 1985, four people described a horrific murder and rape of a 68 year old woman from Beatice, Nebraska. Three of those witnesses Ada JoAnn Taylor, James L. Dean, and Deb Shelden told investigators that two men Thomas Winslow and Joseph White repeatedly took turns raping the victim while holding her down. Taylor even said she held a pillow over the victim's face during the assault, suffocating her. These "confessions" led to six convictions. White was sentenced to life in prison. Winslow, fearing the death penalty, ultimately admitted to being present at the crime scene, and pled guilty to a reduced charge and was sentenced to 50 years. Taylor was sentenced to 10 to 40 years for aiding and abetting second degree murder. Dean, Gonzalez and Shelden each pled guilty or entered no contest pleas and were sentenced to 10 years. That's four confessions, six convictions, and five guilty pleas — only White took his case to trial and lost. Case closed, right? Nope.
19 years later DNA evidence revealed that they were all INNOCENT! According to Taylor: “I was coerced into taking a plea bargain and coached into testifying to what I was coached to testify to.”
A politician is coached to lie, and repeat the lie even in the face of facts, on a televised debate.
An innocent woman is coached to lie, and repeat the same lie in a court of law, in order to only do 40 years in prison for a crime she didn't commit.
This Saturday, Prof. Alan Hirsch, an expert on False Confessions will be our guest on True Crime Uncensored. I'll ask him if there is a link between the Big Lie and the False Confession.