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Another Overturned Conviction by The Innocence Project

Here is another case where the Innocence Project helped free an innocent man — in this case, one who had been on death row for more than 15 years:

It started lightly, then the detectives began piling on the pressure. They repeatedly told him he was lying, putting their faces close up to his. When he gave them the names of the people he had been with over the previous 24 hours as alibis, the officers said they had talked to the individuals who had denied it. “That felt like I was being abandoned, because they were the only people who could put me in their presence away from the crime scene,” Thibodeaux said. The police gave him a lie-detector test. When they returned to the interview room and told him he had failed, he fainted.

[H]aving studied the case for years, his current lawyers are convinced he was subjected to a prolonged questioning that interacted with his vulnerabilities and broke down his resistance. About 4am on 21 July he gave the police what he thought they wanted. He had been under interrogation for nine hours, and had no meaningful sleep for 35 hours. “I had no sleep, I was hungry, I was tired of it. At that point I didn’t care, I just wanted to stop it.”

He began to confess, repeating details of the crime scene that the detectives had given him. “I’m not the smartest person on the planet, but I was able to figure out how Crystal died and how she was found from what they were telling me. I just put the pieces together and gave them the confession they wanted.”

Within three hours of his confession, details emerged that refuted key aspects. Examination of the crime scene determined the cord that had been wrapped around Crystal’s neck was a red electrical conductor wire that had been hanging on a nearby tree, and not the speaker wire Thibodeaux had confessed to. Crystal’s mother also told investigators within three hours of the confession that Thibodeaux had been with her in the their flat when she called the police to report her daughter’s disappearance – undermining any possibility of him getting to and from the crime scene in time to have murdered Crystal.

All those discrepancies were known to the authorities before Thibodeaux was put in the dock for murder and rape. They also knew that there were other potential suspects who conceivably merited further investigation.

Read the entire article to get the other evidence of his innocence.

A while back I got interested in this subject and read a fair chunk of the excellent Convicting the Innocent by Brandon Garrett.  After reading much of the book, the report of this story – of a man who confessed to a crime he did not commit – no longer seems all that surprising.  It has happened fairly often in the past.  One of the signs of such a confession – that the details of the confession did not match the evidence at the crime scene – is clearly present in this case.  Sadly, the judge and jury did not take this mismatch seriously.  The misconduct of the police – their coercive and manipulative tactics – cannot be proved, but seems likely given the false confession.

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