DNA Establishes "False Confession" NY Court Releases Innocent Man After 19 Years In Prison



Below articles written by the INNOCENCE PROJECT. 

A False Confession Reversed in New York

On April 28, Innocence Project client Frank Sterling (above) walked out of a Rochester, New York, courthouse a free man for the first time in 19 years. Sterling, who was convicted of a murder based almost entirely on a false confession he gave after long hours of police interrogation, is now beginning to rebuild his life in upstate New York.

DNA testing conducted on evidence from the 1988 murder not only proved Sterling’s innocence, but also pointed to the identity of the alleged real perpetrator, Mark Christie, who was briefly a suspect at the time of the initial investigation. After the DNA tests implicated him, Christie gave multiple detailed confessions to the crime. He is in prison for the murder of a four-year-old girl in 1994, a crime that could have been prevented if the police had not instead focused on Sterling for the 1988 case.

Sterling was convicted based mainly on his confession to the 1988 crime. He confessed after 12 hours in police custody, which followed a 36-hour trucking shift. He immediately recanted the confession, but it was used against him at trial. Watch the videotaped confession here.

False confessions and admissions are a leading cause of injustice in the U.S., playing a role in nearly 25% of the 254 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing nationwide — and nearly half of wrongful convictions in New York.

These injustices can be prevented by recording interrogations. Although Sterling’s confession was recorded, his complete interrogation was not. The Innocence Project strongly recommends the videotaping of full custodial interrogations to prevent false confessions and to provide tools to improve law enforcement investigations. Several states and hundreds of jurisdictions have successfully enacted these reforms. Learn more about recording of interrogations and your state’s practices on our website.

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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Death Row Case 

Hank Skinner

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will hear the case of Texas death row prisoner Hank Skinner (above), who last month came within 47 minutes of execution — for a crime he says he didn’t commit — before receiving a stay.

Skinner, who was convicted and sentenced to death for a 1993 triple murder, is seeking DNA tests on untested crime scene evidence that could prove his innocence or guilt, but Texas judges have repeatedly denied access to the tests. The Supreme Court could potentially decide whether a defendant can obtain post-conviction DNA testing through a civil rights claim. Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled, but a decision is expected next year.

Thousands of Innocence Project supporters have taken action on Skinner’s behalf in recent months, calling for DNA testing in the case and raising awareness about the possibility that Texas would execute Hank Skinner without conducting tests that could prove his innocence.

 Read more about Skinner’s case here.

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