DR. RICHARD J. OFSHE

Biography


Richard J. Ofshe, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert on false confessions. A member of the team that shared in the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service that was awarded to the Point Reyes (CA) Light newspaper, Dr. Ofshe is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. He also serves as a Fellow of the Center On Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.  The focus of his research has been (1) the identification of those interrogation tactics which, when coupled with the regular procedures of interrogation, can cause an innocent person to falsely admit responsibility and falsely confess to a crime, and (2) how to discriminate between reliable and unreliable confessions.

Since 1979 Dr. Ofshe has served as a consultant to major law enforcement agencies, including the Offices of the Attorney General for the States of California and Arizona, the Offices of the United States Attorney in Los Angeles and West Virginia, the Criminal and Tax Divisions of the United States Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service, the Offices of the District Attorney of Los Angeles County, California and of Franklin County, Indiana, the Office of the State’s Attorney of Florida in Broward County and in Fort Myers, the Office of the Governor of Missouri, and a Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry.  He has testified in state, Federal and military courts on more than 225 occasions in 33 states at trial level and in post-conviction proceedings.

Summary of Interrogations and Confessions Analysis

A careful analysis of the police tactics leading to the confessions of Danial, Joseph , and Derek shows that their interrogations were riddled with coercive and improper techniques that in combination with the high pressure nature of accusatory interrogation, research shows, can pose a significant danger of producing false confessions.

Dr. Ofshe concluded that coercive interrogation tactics and particularly the repeated threat of severe punishment, up to and including the death penalty caused these men to falsely admit their involvement in Ms. Bosko’s rape and murder and then to give detailed false confessions that conflicted with each other and with the objective physical evidence in this case.  These tactics, designed to motivate Danial, Joe, and Derek to confess, were psychologically coercive, beyond the ability of these young men to resist. 

The failure of the confessions given by Joe, Derek, and Danial to fit the facts of the crime strengthens Dr. Ofshe’s opinion that these men made false admissions.  Even after detectives worked to produce confessions that would corroborate their coerced admissions, the confessions remained full of gross, if not absurd errors.  The poverty of these confessions taken together with the complete lack of any physical evidence tying them to the Bosko apartment on the night of Ms. Bosko’s rape and murder demonstrates that the confessions are unreliable and false. 

In contrast to the coercive interrogations suffered by Joe, Derek, and Danial, the police questioning of Omar Ballard, the true perpetrator of this crime, was brief, casual, and completely lacking in high-pressure, abusive techniques.  Ballard’s confession matched the known facts of the crime, contained verifiable details that had not been publicly disclosed, and, most importantly, confirmed that Joe, Derek, and Danial had no involvement in Michelle Bosko’s rape and murder.

The DNA evidence indicating that Omar Ballard raped and murdered Michelle Bosko and did so alone further strengthens Dr. Ofshe’s opinion that Joe, Derek, and Danial falsely admitted guilt and falsely confessed.

All of the evidence Dr. Ofshe reviewed and all his years of study of interrogation and false confession leads him to conclude that Joseph Dick, Derek Tice, and Danial Williams are innocent beyond any reasonable doubt. 

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