Norfolk Four- False Memories, False Confessions

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These are the faces of a miscarriage of justice. The Norfolk Four case is eerily similar to Paul Ingram's-- if not even more terrifying. Four former naval officers confessed to the rape and murder of a young woman. They were tried, sentenced, and served time for a crime they had no hand in. The true criminal also confessed, confessed to committing the act alone. Yet his testimony was ignored, as was other irrefutable evidence.

Why do individuals admit to obscene acts they have not done? Why are countless people willing to ignore facts that stare them in the face?

First, I suggest referring back to the suspects themselves. All were former naval officers. This suggests that they had been conditioned to respect authority. When the men were brought into questioning and interrogated by a ruthless and unforgiving detective who would not take "no" for an answer, this conditioned response may have made them more susceptible to falsely confessing.

Loftus's interpretation of the "misinformation effect" undoubtedly played a contributing role. The interrogator would feed the men parts of others' confessions until the stories lined up more consistently. When the true rapist and murderer was discovered, they even convinced the Norfolk Four that they had found this man on the street and invited him to join in their mass crime.

As with Paul Ingram, police were under intense pressure to imprison for a heinous crime. Though there was no false testimony working against them, the cop harassing them was notorious for eliciting false confessions and later indicted on charges of corruption. One of the four had a particular interest in the woman killed which sparked a tangled web including more than seven suspects-- none of whom were related to the crime in question.

Per haps the jurors were biased by the suspects pleas of "guilty" and their brutal depictions of the crime they thought they committed. The men were told they would receive the death penalty if they didn't plea guilty and since sentencing each of them has rediscovered their innocence and are released or pending pardon from the mayor.

This Frontline video provides just a glimpse as to what the human memory is capable of believing:


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Be sure to tell us things like what the misinformation effect is. Assume your reader is naive. Nice post and good video clip. It makes me want to watch the show!

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This page contains a single entry by dier0123 published on October 23, 2011 11:13 PM.

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