Inconsistent Confessions

22 Cases

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AZ - Maricopa - Christina Mason 1993

CA - Los Angeles - Fred Rogers 1941

CA - Los Angeles - Daniel Kamacho 1946

CA - Los Angeles - Bob Williams 1955-56

CA - Orange - Jose Soto Martinez 1993

CA - San Francisco - Ludrate Burton 1994

FL - Pasco - Jason Derrick 1987

FL - Pinellas - Tom Sawyer 1986

HI - Hawaii - Frank Pauline 1991

GA - Cherokee - Roberto Rocha 2002

IL - Cook - Lloyd Lindsey 1974

IL - Cook - Robert Wilson 1997

LA - Plaquemines - Alvin Latham 2000

MO - Boone - Ferguson & Erickson 2001

OK - Pontotoc - Ward & Fontenot 1984

OR - Lane - Karlyn Eklof 1993

PA - Allegheny - Da'Ron Cox 1996

TX - Harris - Max Soffar 1980

TX - Tarrant - Richard Jones 1986

VA - Culpeper - Earl Washington, Jr. 1982

VA - Norfolk - Joseph Giarratano 1979

WA - Yakima - Patrick Bradford 1995




Date of Alleged Crime


Maricopa County, AZ Christina Mason Mar 6, 1993
Phoenix police elicited a confession from Christina Mason that she killed her three-month old child by letting another woman inject the child with heroin and cocaine to keep the child from crying.  Autopsy results revealed no drugs other than Tylenol in the child's body.  The medical examiner concluded the likely cause of death was pneumonia or a viral infection.  [9/05]


Los Angeles County, CA Fred Rogers 1941

Courtney Fred Rogers was sentenced to death for the murders of his parents.  In Oct. 1941 his 50-year-old father was rescued from a burning house, but later died of smoke inhalation.  Investigators found burning candles in the house and determined that fires had been set in several rooms.  The death of Rogers Sr. was ruled a suicide.  Eight months earlier, Rogers' mother had died from the inhalation of chloroform.  Her death had also been ruled a suicide.

Four months after the death of his father, Rogers was arrested for making a false $400 insurance claim.  Police found that the 24-year-old was heavily in debt and began to wonder if he had killed his parents in order to collect on life insurance.  Rogers, however, received no insurance proceeds for the death of his mother, although he did receive full ownership of the home he had jointly owned with her.  He received only $1000 for the death of his father plus $2300 for damage to the house.  Such proceeds were small compared to Rogers' debts.

After 16 days of more-or-less continuous questioning by police, Rogers confessed to the murders of his parents, a confession that he soon retracted.  Nevertheless, he was convicted of these alleged murders.  In 1943, the California Supreme Court unanimously threw out Rogers' convictions.  Evidence that his mother had committed suicide was clear and convincing.  The same was true in regard to the death of his father.  Neighbors had testified at how despondent Rogers Sr. was over the death of his wife and how he often had spoken of taking his own life.  Neighbors also said he had spoken of his dread of being left alone, after Rogers Jr., his only son, answered a draft call into the army.  Rogers Jr. was scheduled to report the day after the fatal fire.  At retrial, in the face of no evidence against Rogers, the retrial court dismissed charges.  (ISI) (Time) [2/09]


Los Angeles County, CA Daniel Kamacho Mar 11, 1946

Daniel Kamacho was convicted of the murder of Deputy Sheriff Fred T. Guiol.  Guiol attended a movie with a friend, Miss Pearl Rattenbury, and drove her to her home at 1117 Elden Ave.  Before Rattenbury could step out of the car, a young man armed with a gun wrenched open the car door and demanded the occupants hand over their money.  When Guiol reached for his gun, the man shot Guiol dead and ran off.

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Los Angeles County, CA Bob Williams 1955-56

Robert E. Williams, also known as Bob, was was convicted of the murders of Matt Manestar and Ralph Burgess.  Manestar, 56, was the owner of the Rose Motel located at 1345 West Pacific Coast Highway in Harbor City.  He was killed on the night of Jan. 22-23, 1956.  Williams confessed to this murder while in a northern California juvenile correction camp.  He figured his confession would allow him to contact his girlfriend as it would force his transfer to police custody in southern California for questioning.  He was anxious to contact her because he believed she was about to marry someone else.  He also figured that he could not be convicted of murdering Manestar as he was incarcerated at the correction camp when the murder occurred.  Unfortunately Williams figured wrong.

Two years later, in an effort to free himself by proving that an innocent person could be convicted of murder due to a false confession, Williams decided to confess to another murder that occurred while he was in the correction camp.  In a Long Beach newspaper Williams found a story about the unsolved murder of Ralph Burgess.  Burgess, a salesman, was murdered on Nov. 20, 1955 at McKinney's furniture store at 2430 East Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach.  While five fellow inmates watched him, Williams wrote out a confession to this murder using details from the newspaper.  Williams was proven right more than he had hoped.  When put on trial for the murder, he was convicted again.  He was not allowed to refute his confession by calling his fellow inmates as witnesses.

Seventeen years later, in 1975, Williams was paroled from prison.  He began working on establishing his innocence.  Eventually, in a San Pedro police records room, he found a letter from a correction camp supervisor camp stating he had been in custody at the time of Manestar's murder.  This letter had been withheld from Williams' defense at trial.  In 1978, a judge released Williams from his life parole, effectively ending his sentence.  (News Article) (ISI)  [7/09]


Orange County, CA Jose Soto Martinez Oct 27, 1993 (Laguna Beach)
Following police interrogation, Jose Soto Martinez (aka Jaime Saille Higuera) confessed to starting a fire that destroyed at least 365 homes and businesses in Laguna Beach and caused an estimated $528 million in damages.  Less than a week later, prosecutors dismissed arson charges against Martinez after they found out that he had been in El Cereso de Mazatlan prison in Mexico at the time the fire was set.  (Google)  [4/08]


San Francisco County, CA Ludrate Burton Apr 21, 1994

Ludrate Burton was convicted of murdering 13-year-old Alexius McNeal, the daughter of his second cousin.  Burton had discovered her dead body, and because of his criminal history, he was a suspect from the start.  However, fingerprints lifted from the scene did not link him to the murder.  Burton had a liver ailment, weighed 120 lbs., and had difficulty getting up a flight of stairs.  The prosecution theorized that he struggled with the 5'9", 186 lbs. Alexius before murdering her.

While in prison, Burton had a known prison snitch, Obie Jacobs, assigned as his cellmate.  Jacobs had testified at other murder trials.  Burton complained to his lawyer, but his request for a different cellmate was denied.  Two months later, the cellmate was meeting with the police and telling them that Burton confessed to him using police supplied information.  Jacobs told them that Burton confessed that he killed McNeal between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., but the coroner had placed her time of her death between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.  (InjusticeBusters)  [10/05]


Pasco County, FL Jason Derrick June 25, 1987 (Moon Lake)

Samuel Jason Derrick was sentenced to death for the murder of Rama Sharma.  Sharma, 55, owned the Moon Lake General Store and was found dead behind the store.  Following the murder, police received a tip that a car was seen driving suspiciously around the crime scene vicinity in the early morning hours of June 25, 1987, prior to the finding of the victim's body.  The description of the car, including a partial license plate number, seemed to match that of a car driven by David Lowry.  Lowry deflected the investigation away from himself by implicating Derrick, who was then his friend.  At trial, five Pasco County detectives swore under oath that Derrick confessed to the crime.  There was no written, audio, or video record of this “confession” or any interrogation notes written by any of the five detectives.  The Pasco County Sheriff's Office had a reputation for corruption.  Just two years earlier, St. Petersburg Times reporter Lucy Morgan won a Pulitzer Prize for her series of articles documenting this corruption.

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Pinellas County, FL Tom Sawyer Nov 3, 1986 (Clearwater)
Tom Franklin Sawyer, 33, confessed to the rape and murder of his 25-year-old neighbor, Janet L. Staschak, after 16 hours of interrogation by Clearwater police.  The interrogation included numerous threats.  No evidence linked Sawyer to the crime, and his confession did not match known crime facts.  For example, presuming that Staschak had been sexually assaulted, the interrogators led Sawyer to admit to both vaginal and anal rape during the creation of his confession but the medical examiner reported no evidence of sexual assault.  After the trial judge suppressed Sawyer's confession, the state dismissed the charges, since no other evidence of his guilt existed.  [9/05]


Hawaii County, HI Pauline & Schweitzers Dec 24, 1991

While riding her bicycle, 23-year-old Dana Ireland was hit by a car.  Then she was taken to a remote area 5 miles north of the collision site where she was raped and murdered.  Two-and-a half years later an Oahu inmate, Frank Pauline, Jr., came forward with information.  He said that in exchange for the information he wanted the authorities to look kindly on his half-brother who was facing drug charges.

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Cherokee County, GA Roberto Rocha July 2, 2002
Roberto Rocha was charged with the murder of Katie Hamlin.  Rocha, who is mentally disabled, confessed to being present when Hamlin was killed on July 2.  However, passports and witnesses showed that Rocha had been with his missionary father on a trip to Brazil between June 10 and July 10.  Rocha was released and charges against him were dropped after 15 months in police custody.  (Atlanta JC) (Primetime)  [9/05]


Cook County, IL Lloyd Lindsey Oct 21, 1974

Lloyd Lindsey was convicted of murdering three little girls and their brother.  He was also convicted of raping one of the girls.  A man who boarded with the children's family and a surviving brother told police when interviewed together that Lindsey along with Eugene Ford and Willie Robinson had strangled the children after raping the girls.  The three men then set fire to the home.  Lindsey confessed to this crime, parroting the details of the boarder and surviving brother.  The home, at 1408 W. 61st Street in Chicago, was occupied by Mrs. Catherine Horace, her six children, and Lavelle Watkins, the boarder.

Medical evidence indicated that the children had not been strangled, but had died of smoke inhalation.  Two of the girls, moreover, were virgins and showed no signs of sexual abuse.  Lindsey and his compatriots, who had not confessed, were tried together, but with separate juries.  Lindsey was convicted, but his compatriots were acquitted.  In 1979, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed Lindsey's conviction, and barred a retrial.  It ruled “the inconsistencies in the testimony of [the principal prosecution witnesses] were not only contradictory but diluted [their testimony] to the level of palpable improbability and incredulity.”  (CWC)  [1/06]


Cook County, IL Robert Wilson Feb 28, 1997

Robert Wilson was convicted of the attempted murder of June Siler.  While waiting at a bus station, a man, for no apparent reason, slashed Siler's throat and face with a box cutter.  Siler identified Wilson as her assailant from suggestive police photo lineups, although, at one point, she complained that Wilson was too old to be her assailant.  After 30 hours in custody, Wilson signed a confession.  He soon recanted the confession and said he signed it because he was sick, police had refused his requests for his heart medicine, and he was scared police would beat him.  He said a detective had slapped him.

Wilson's confession did not match the facts of the crime.  The confession stated Wilson assaulted Siler because he was smoking a cigar and he became angry when she had complained of the smoke and said he would get cancer.  Siler said later her assailant was not smoking a cigar, and there was no discussion about smoking or cancer. “I smoke,” she said. “I wouldn't have said anything like that.”

Siler always had anxiety about whether she helped to convict the right person.  Later after Wilson got a new trial, she learned another suspect had been wearing black Velcro shoes that her assailant had been wearing.  Siler is now convinced that Wilson was not her assailant and blames police for the mix-up.  (Chicago Tribune) (CWC)  [3/07]


Plaquemines Parish, LA Alvin Latham July 16, 2000

After a storm at sea, a shrimp boat named “The Bandit,” containing Alvin Latham and the ship's captain, Raymond Leiker, failed to return to its home port of Venice, LA.  Latham was picked up at sea 14 hours later holding onto a piece of wood.  He said the storm came up suddenly and that while trying to pull fish into the boat, Leiker's foot got caught in a fishing net. Latham tried to help Leiker free his foot, but eventually Leiker told him to save himself.  Moments after Latham swam away from the boat, the boat submerged into the sea.

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Boone County, MO Ferguson & Erickson Nov 1, 2001 (Columbia)

Ryan Ferguson and Chuck Erickson were convicted of the brutal murder of Columbia Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt.  A janitor, Jerry Trump, caught a glimpse of two young white men running away from Heitholt's car around the time of the murder.  The janitor said he could not provide a detailed description of them.  Two years after the crime, after reading anniversary newspaper coverage, Erickson began telling friends he dreamed he had killed Heitholt.

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Pontotoc County, OK Ward & Fontenot Apr 28, 1984 (Ada)

Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot were convicted of murdering Denice Haraway.  Haraway, 24, worked part-time at McAnally's convenience store.  She was last seen leaving the store with a man who had his arm around her waist.  The two appeared to be a pair of lovers.  The store was found deserted with the cash register drawer opened and emptied.  Haraway's purse and driver's license were found inside, and her car nearby.

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Lane County, OR Karlyn Eklof Mar 21, 1993

Karlyn Eklof was convicted of the murder of James Salmu.  After eight to ten hours of daily interrogation for nine days, Eklof recited on videotape a police invented scenario in which she stabbed Salmu with a plastic knife.  Eklof was prosecuted for Salmu's murder based on this “confession.”  Following Eklof's indictment, Salmu's body was found.  At trial, testimony was presented indicating that Salmu had been stabbed.  The prosecution then presented Eklof's confession, which appeared to agree with the cause of death as she confessed to stabbing Salmu.  The prosecution also presented the testimony of two witnesses who made incriminatory statements against Eklof.

On appeal it was discovered that DA Fred Hugi had engaged in multiple Brady violations involving the withholding of exculpatory evidence.  Salmu's cause of death was bullet wounds and there was no evidence that he had been stabbed.  It was also not revealed that the two witnesses who testified did so in order to avoid prosecution themselves.  One of these witnesses was under indictment for molesting his daughter, and the DA went to extraordinary efforts to conceal this fact.  As of 2007, Eklof is using the Brady violations to appeal her conviction.  Eklof's complete story is written in Improper Submission: Records of a Wrongful Conviction by Erma Armstrong.  (JD35 p3)  [7/07]


Allegheny County, PA Da'Ron Cox Dec 7, 1996 (Homewood)

Da'Ron Cox was convicted of murdering 19-year-old Brian Roberts.  Ten days before his murder, Roberts pointed an automatic weapon at a police officer and was arrested.  He was carrying 34 rocks of crack cocaine.  He walked free after telling police the gun and drugs belonged to Roland Cephas.  Cephas was busted and vowed retaliation.

Police arrested Cox after an imprisoned informant implicated him in exchange for money and freedom.  Police also claimed Cox confessed during interrogation.  Cox admitted confessing, but said police told him he would get the death penalty if he did not confess and would only prosecute him on a self-defense charge if he did confess.  The informant said he saw Cox shoot Roberts at close range in the chest.  Cox confessed to shooting Roberts from a distance in the chest.  However, Roberts was actually shot in the back.

After the conviction, numerous witnesses have come forward indicating that neither Cox nor the informant were at the murder scene and that Cephas had killed Roberts in retaliation.  Cephas and the informant were murdered in 1997 and 1999 during a wave of street gang killings.  Cox is still imprisoned in 2006.  (Post-Gazette)  [12/06]


Harris County, TX Max Soffar July 13, 1980 (Houston)

Max Soffar was convicted of murdering Arden Alane Felsher, 17, Tommy Lee Temple, 17, and Stephen Allen Sims, 25, during a robbery of the Fair Lanes Windfern Bowling Center.  He was sentenced to death.  Soffar, 24, a mentally impaired individual, confessed to the murders after hours of police interrogation.  No physical evidence connected him to the crime.  A fourth victim, Gregory Garner, survived a gunshot wound to the head but failed to identify Soffar as a participant in the robbery.

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Tarrant County, TX Richard Jones Feb 19, 1986 (Fort Worth)

Richard Wayne Jones was convicted of the abduction and murder of Tammy Livingston.  Around 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, 1986 witnesses Ruthie Amato and her two daughters watched as Livingston was abducted from a Michael's store parking lot in Hurst, Texas.  Between 9:20 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. the same night, a witness named Robert Speights heard screams coming from a field at 4600 Randol Mill Road in Fort Worth.  At 11:20 p.m. a fire was reported in the field.  When police responded they found Livingston's body.  She had been stabbed 19 times.

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Culpeper County, VA Earl Washington, Jr. June 4, 1982 (Culpeper)

Earl Washington, Jr., who has an IQ of 69, was arrested in 1983 on minor charges in Fauquier County, VA.  After 2 days of questioning, police announced that he had confessed to 5 different crimes including the murder of Rebecca Lynn Williams.  Of the five confessions, four were dismissed because of inconsistencies in the confessions and the inability of the victims to identify Washington.  In the remaining confession, Washington said that he raped and killed Rebecca Lynn Williams.

Questioning revealed that Washington did not know the race of his victim, the address of the apartment where she was killed, or that he had raped her.  Washington also testified that Ms. Williams had been short when in fact she was 5'8", that he had stabbed her two or three times when the victim showed thirty-eight stab wounds, and that there was no one else in the apartment when it was known that her two young children were with her.  Washington said he kicked in her door, but her door was undamaged.  Only on the fourth attempt at a rehearsed confession, did authorities accept Washington's statement and have it recorded in writing with Washington's signature.  He only picked out the scene of the crime after being taken there three times in one afternoon by the police, who in the end had to help him pick out Williams' apartment.

At trial, the confession proved to be the prosecution's only evidence linking Washington to the crime.  The defense failed to point out the inconsistencies of the prosecution's case, especially the results of the Commonwealth's own serological analysis of the seminal fluid found at the scene of the crime, which did not match Washington.  It also failed to inform the jury of Washington's other false confessions.  Washington was convicted and sentenced to death.  He came within 9 days of execution when a New York law firm picked up his case pro bono.

In 1993, DNA tests exonerated Washington, but Virginia law barred the introduction of new evidence so he had no redress though the courts.  In 2000, Gov. Gilmore granted Washington an absolute pardon.  The case was featured on Frontline and is the subject of a book, An Expendable Man: The Near-Execution of Earl Washington, Jr.  (IP) (Times-Dispatch) (JP) (JD12) (JD14)  [5/05]


City of Norfolk, VA Joseph Giarratano Feb 5, 1979

Joe Giarratano was convicted of murdering Michelle Kline, 15, and her mother, Barbara “Toni” Kline, 44.  Michelle had been strangled and Toni had been stabbed to death.  Joe had stayed at the Kline's apartment a few weeks before the murders.  The day after the bodies were found, Joe was in Jacksonville, Florida and police there contacted him.  He confessed to them that he committed the crime.  He gave four statements inconsistent with details of the crime.  After two detectives from Norfolk arrived and interviewed him, he gave a fifth statement.

This statement was more consistent with the facts of the crime, as Norfolk detectives showed him crime scene photos and could feed him details of the crime, but it was still inconsistent.  Joe claimed to have killed Lori before Michelle, but medical reports show that Michelle died before Lori.  He had stated that he strangled Michelle with his hands, when the autopsy report stated a non-hands form of strangulation.  This report was changed to say manual strangulation prior to trial.  Other discrepancies exist.

At trial the prosecution withheld evidence such as that of an alternate suspect whose driver's license was found in the Kline's apartment.  This suspect was heroin user and a federal informant with a history of sexual assaults.  All trace of him has since disappeared as though he entered the federal witness protection program.  In 1991, Joe's appellate attorneys convinced Gov. Wilder to commute Joe's death sentence to life imprisonment and to recommend a new trial.  However, Virginia law does not allow new evidence to be introduced after 21 days following a conviction.

Joe had been a serious alcohol and drug abuser.  However, in prison, after he stopped taking tranquilizers issued to him by prison doctors, he became a competent “jailhouse lawyer.”  A couple of his cases have made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  He worked tirelessly on Earl Washington's case as well as many others.  He taught non-violence classes and helped some inmates to read and write.  Officials at Red Onion State Prison have since stopped his activism by placing him in solitary confinement.  (JD14)  [2/07]


Yakima County, WA Ted Bradford Fall 1995
Ted L. Bradford was convicted of rape after police contended he confessed following an 8-hour interrogation.  The perpetrator had worn a nylon stocking over his head and had covered his victim's face with a mask.  The victim had described the perpetrator as 6' tall while Bradford is 5'7".  In the confession, Bradford said no children were present in the victim's home, when in fact the victim's infant child wailed throughout the attack.  Bradford served a 9-year prison sentence, but did not stop professing his innocence.  In 2007, the DNA profile of another unknown man was found from skin cells left on the mask.  A court overturned Bradford's conviction, making Bradford the first person in Washington State whose conviction was overturned because of DNA evidence.  The state plans to retry him.  According to a prosecutor, even though Bradford faces no additional prison time, it is important to make him register as a sex offender.  Bradford also faces a $600,000 judgment owed to the victim and her husband, who sued him in 1996.  (Seattle Times)  [10/07]