What Most People Don't Know...

Some facts and details not in the film

  • On the day they found Michelle Moore-Bosko's body It so happened on that day -- at the very same hour while Danial Williams was being interrogated -- the police were obtaining an arrest warrant for Omar Ballard for a beating two weeks earlier in the same apartment complex. No one made the connection.
  • Derek Tice's first statement He claimed Michelle Bosko wouldn't let them in when they first knocked on her door, so they returned with a claw hammer and clawed open the door. But there was no sign of forced entry at the victim's apartment.
  • The law firms that took the case pro bono They've clocked to date more than 23,000 hours in their efforts since 2004 to gain their clients' freedom and an unconditional pardon.
  • Det. Robert Glenn Ford's troubled history In 1990 he was demoted for extracting false confessions in the Lafayette Grill case. And in October 2010, he was found guilty on two of four extortion charges and one charge of lying to the FBI.

Perfectly legal interrrogation techniques
(A rundown from Richard Leo, drawn from his FRONTLINE interview)

  • Most of what police do in interrogations that lead to false confessions is legal: The accusations, yelling; moving in closer, invading one's space; lying about evidence, making it up, pretending to have evidence; telling somebody they failed a polygraph....
  • Threats and promises -- those are unlawful, because they can be coercive and elicit involuntary or unreliable confessions. But threats and promises can be implicit or explicit and if they're implicit, they may be considered legal by a judge deciding whether to admit or not admit a confession. And of course, police often deny that they used any threats or promises, and if there's no record of the interrogation, no recording, then it's just one person's word against the other.
  • Police are allowed to use a range of interrogation techniques that pressure and persuade a suspect - or are intended to - because confession evidence is very valuable. And it's believed that most interrogation techniques are not coercive; they won't lead to an involuntary confession. That's the legal standard in the United States: "Will the interrogation techniques overbear somebody's will and lead to possibly an involuntary or a false confession?"

How producer Ofra Bikel came to this story

"At least five years ago, while researching stories about false confessions, I came across this one and I said to myself, 'This is the story I have to tell' -- you literally could not believe it. I got so good at telling the story to people at dinner parties, I could do it in three minutes, leaving everyone at the table with their mouths hanging open.

"But then I learned that Virginia doesn't allow cameras in high security prisons. So I couldn't interview the men on camera. For me, without that piece of the puzzle, there was something vital missing. But I never really left the story. I always checked on it and kept in touch with the attorneys, never thinking I'd really do anything about it.

"In August 2009 I read in the papers that the men were conditionally pardoned, at which point one of the attorneys I was still in touch with asked if I was still interested in making a film -- now the men could talk. I wasn't sure -- I thought the story had come to some sort of an end with Governor Kaine's decision to free them. And there was also a lot that had been written about this story, so I didn't know what a film could accomplish.

"But I could never say 'no' to this story. Even now I find it stunning and I feel like people have to know what happened. So we initiated the research and the more details we learned, the more shocking the case proved to be. And then, finally -- for the first time since their release -- all four men sat down with me and the camera, and told their story.

"Conducting the interviews wasn’t easy. There were a lot of monosyllabic answers in the phone calls leading up to the interviews. But with time the men and their families came to realize that I really wanted to understand what they had been through. And they started to talk about the emotional trauma of the past thirteen years. The more they talked, the more they wanted to talk, and we just listened."


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posted november 9, 2010

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