Rights? What Rights?

You think you got rights? Watch the Frontline documentary, “The Confessions.” A brutal rape led to one man being questioned by the police. He passed a lie detector test, but the interrogating officers told him he’d failed the test and then subjected him to over 18 hours of questioning. He eventually broke and signed a false confession. He was threatened with a death penalty if he didn’t confess to a crime he did not commit.

This man then implicated another person under duress, and he was brought in to face intense questioning. He implicated two other people, one of which was not even in the country at the time, and both were brutalized under massive questioning and threats of the death penalty. All confessed to a crime they did not commit.

No forensic evidence matched any of the accused to the crime. Yet, because they signed a scripted confession under duress, they were convicted and their convictions held on appeal. Let me reiterate that: no physical evidence linked them to the crime, but the interrogating officer racked up four false confessions and sent four innocent men to prison.

Three other men were accused of the crime, but their charges were dropped. One more man, Omar Ballard, was convicted of the crime. His DNA matched that found on the scene and his confession stated that he committed the act unaided and alone. In spite of that DNA match and confession that he raped the woman alone, the other four men in prison stayed there.

The first man served his entire sentence and is trying to clear his conviction. The other three were granted a conditional pardon by the Governor of Virginia, but the Governor said they could be retried.

The interrogating officer, Glenn Ford, has a history of forcing false confessions and had been reprimanded for such behavior in a previous case. He has been since indicted and convicted on two counts of extorting accused persons in exchange for better treatment.

You can read more at the Norfolk Four website. What disgusts me is that a governor could not give a full pardon to four men that were clearly innocent and victims of a man that chose to violate their civil rights. What disgusts me is that the man that lied to four men, saying their lie detector tests came back negative, extorting their confessions, was held up as a paragon of law enforcement for so long when he was the very thing the law was supposed to protect against. What disgusts me is that even after the public became aware of the situation, the state of Virginia still attempted to re-try the cases of the men released on conditional pardon.

Our rights exist only as long as those in charge of protecting those rights choose to respect them. Those that are in charge of protecting rights are more likely to protect those of the rich, using the poor as stepping-stones to a bigger conviction record, never mind their actual guilt or innocence. The system does not allow for new evidence to be introduced at the appeal level and governors, ever paragons of hypocrisy, will not pardon the innocent for fear of losing votes.

One thought on “Rights? What Rights?

  1. Cody Haines

    Sounds very similar to the true story portrayed by John Grisham in his novel The Innocent Man, except in this case it was murder, and I believe (don’t quote me) that the man had some sort of mental handicap as well.

    What rights indeed.

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