In July, 1997, Michelle Moore-Bosko was raped and murdered in Norfolk, Virginia. There was no forced entry, and the perpetrator was described as a single assailant. Soon, seven US sailors were arrested and jailed. There is no evidence that any of the men committed a crime. The police were able to extract false confessions from four Navy sailors. What happened?

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The Victim, Michelle Bosko

A female neighbor who only knew the victim for a month told the police that they should investigate Danial Williams, a 25-year-old married Navy machinist who lived in the same apartment building. Danial, being a law abiding innocent man used to obeying orders, drove to the police station to help in the investigation. He was given a polygraph test. He was innocent, and passed the test, but the police lied and told him he failed, and that he needed to stop lying to them and confess.

With no evidence pointing to Danial, and a polygraph test confirming his innocence, the police decided to interrogate him for 11 hours.  Because that’s far easier than doing real police work to find a criminal.

Initial Interview: 11 Hours

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After 11 hours of this, your mind weakens

Danial states: Being in a small room… getting in your face, yelling at you, calling you a liar, poking you in the chest with their finger, and then turns around and says ‘Well, I can help you, if you tell me the truth, tell me what happened’.  It went on and on throughout the night with them calling me a liar.”  After 11 hours, Danial falsely confessed to entering the apartment and raping Michelle, beating her in the face with a shoe, and then leaving.

The police received the autopsy report the next day. It showed that the victim was not hit with a shoe, or beaten in any way, but was stabbed and strangled (which Danial had denied doing). Instead of finding evidence, searching for the murder weapon, or finding a suspect who fit this profile, the police instead forced Danial to change his confession to fit the facts. Less than 24 hours after the murder, Danial was charged with rape and murder.

The Goal Of Interrogation Is To Obtain A Confession

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When police are in an interrogation, they are not looking for clues to solve the crime. They are trying to get the person in the room to confess. People who have never been interrogated must understand that interrogation is unnatural, stressful, and intense. There is extreme psychological pressure, sleep deprivation, hunger, and confusion. After being trapped in a small place for a long period of time, people break in response to that pressure, and they think the only way to save themselves is to put an end to the interrogation, and the police tell them the way to do that is to sign a confession.

Prosecutors Do Not Care About Justice Or Solving Crimes

Unfortunately, prosecutors acting out of laziness or downright purposefully framing an innocent person, in order to close the case, happens far too often in America. There is no motivation to solve the crime, or obtain justice for the victim, but merely to close the case and move on to another one.

As high profile programs like the podcasts Serial and Truth & Justice, or Netflix’s Making a Murderer show, prosecutors will willingly lock up people for crimes which they know they did not commit, while leaving the real criminal free to continue raping and murdering.  But what happened here went far beyond framing a single innocent man.

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Four months after locking up Danial for the crime, Danial’s DNA test came back and proved he was innocent. Unlike the UK, which has strict rules for police behavior, rules for interrogation, required taping of procedures, and prohibitions on lying to suspects, the police in America are free to lie, distort, and manipulate. They kept the DNA results which proved Danial’s innocence secret, while he rotted in jail.

The police decided that although the facts proved otherwise, there must have been multiple assailants, and sought out to lock up more innocent men. They picked up another Navy shipmate, Joe Dick Jr., a socially awkward young man with likely below average IQ. Joe claimed he was on the USS Baltimore at the time, which the police could have easily verified. But instead they also told Joe he failed his polygraph test, and traumatized him with brutal crime scene photos.

The police told Joe they knew he was guilty, and that he needed to confess. He gave DNA samples, knowing they would exonerate him, as he was innocent. Instead, the police sent him to jail and charged him with the death penalty, despite zero evidence.

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The “Norfolk Four”, all coerced into giving false confessions

After being fed info about the crime that only the killer would know, Joe made up a story naming another Navy man, Eric Wilson, as the real killer. They cops locked up Eric, and two months later, when Eric’s DNA proved him innocent, the police went back to Joe for the real killer’s name again.

Joe made up the name George Clark. The police couldn’t find a George Clark, so they instead arrested a Navy man from a completely different ship named Derek Tice, who vaguely matched this description.  After 11 hours of interrogation, Derek signed a confession.

The police then pressured Derek for more names. Derek named John Danser, who had an ironclad alibi—it was his birthday and he was out celebrating with friends. Detective Ford came back to Derek, angrily accusing him of lying because John Danser was obviously innocent.

But at the same time as the police admitted Danser had a bulletproof alibi, they prosecuted him for the crime anyway, while asking Derek for even more names. That’s right, the prosecutor admitted Danser couldn’t have done the crime, yet prosecuted him for it anyway.

Never speak to the police without a lawyer.

There is the perception by innocent people that they do not need a lawyer, because they are innocent, and the truth is the best defense of all. Asking for a lawyer makes one appear like one has something to hide. In reality, however, the innocent need a lawyer even more than the guilty.

Forced Confessions Are Easily Obtained

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The 7 Innocent Men in Jail

As NYPD detective Jay Salpeter says “How could you confess to a crime you never did? Put them in a room with me. I could do it.”  Detective Glenn Ford got 100% of the Navy men, military trained men who should have above average physical, if not mental strength, and some type of training in interrogation, to confess. “He postured like a bulldog, leaning towards me, yelling at me, calling me a liar, telling me I was going to die, and this went on for 8 hours. At least every 30 seconds, for 8 hours of constant talking, Ford would say ‘You’re going to die, you’re going to get the needle. How does it feel to die?‘”

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During the Spanish Inquisition, the authorities developed rigorous rules and methods for obtaining confessions. One stage was “showing the instruments” of torture. Many people confessed at merely the sight of the instruments they would be tortured with. The police in this case were effectively “showing the instruments” of death by threatening the needle over and over again for hours.

To most people, it sounds inconceivable that an innocent person could confess. But know that after many hours, most people can and do break down. Your will is broken down, and eventually you will cooperate in order to end the interrogation. The key is to never put yourself in the position where you are being interrogated. No one other than your family will believe you are innocent after you make a false confession.

The Truth Does Not Matter

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Omar Ballard, murderer

A woman’s stepdaughter turned in a letter to the police from Omar Ballard, who was in jail for raping a 14 year old girl, and had raped and killed another woman. In this letter, he angrily threatens the girl, and admits to killing Michelle Bosko. The police tested his semen, which matched that found in the victim, and Omar confessed to the murder, saying he acted alone.

Case closed, right? The innocent men, who don’t know Omar and have no connection to the crime other than their false confessions, will now be apologized to and let go, right? Wrong. The police said Omar must have run into the other seven men, in the parking lot, and talked them in to coming in and raping a stranger with him.

No One Is Looking Out For You

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In 2009, after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime they were clearly innocent of, VA governor Tim Kaine released three of the men (Wilson, the 4th, had already been released after serving 9 years for rape—he was never charged with murder). They went into prison as young men in their prime, and now have their souls crushed and will have trouble living out the rest of their days, and are still considered convicted felons and sex offenders.

The police, the justice system, the government, the military, and anyone else you think is supposed to look out for you, simply will not.  The victims families typically do not care about finding the actual perpetrator, but just want the police to find and kill someone. The important lesson is never talk to the police, other than identifying yourself if asked, and never, ever agree to an interrogation. Always request an attorney, and even a free public defender is better than facing the police alone. Finally, be aware of what happens to innocent men, how interrogation works, and how the mind breaks down under torture or duress.

A chilling Frontline episode documenting this story can be watched for free here.

Read More: All Public Rape Accusations Are False