Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  August 14, 2016 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT

6:00 pm
>> that's all for this edition of "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. thanks for watching. we the jury find the defendant guilty. >> you actually think they read the wrong verdict. >> you feel so alone. >> it's like a shot in the chest. >> despair to hope. darkness to light. a fight for freedom. >> what happened to this teenager could happen to any one of our children. everyone should stand up and take notice. >> at 18, he was arrested for
6:01 pm
murder, adamant he was innocent. >> there was no physical evidence to tie him to the crime. >> i had nothing to do with this. i swear to god. >> so what could have possibly led to this? >> you stabbed that woman. >> i stabbed her. >> you stabbed her, didn't you? >> why would he confess to something he didn't do? >> why would he? what really happened during that police interrogation? >> i can't lie about the evidence. >> i can't lie to you about this. but the officer is lying about lying. >> an extraordinary look inside the interview room. >> i was scared. i was shaken. >> this is one of the most intense interrogations that i've ever seen. welcome to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. how could you confess to a crime you didn't commit? it seems to defy logic and common sense, and yet, it does happen. advocates say far more often
6:02 pm
than any of us realize. here's keith morrison with "the interrogation." >> a freak snowstorm like an omen smothered the little town in the blue ridge mountains. february 19th, 2003, just before 9:00 a.m., winter or no, crowsay, virginia, was used to this. and then a piercing sounds. fire alarm. now the fire storm was the last thing on preston gentry's mind. >> it went off, occupants possibly trapped inside. that ramps everything up to full force. >> the alarm was on a quiet street lined with starter homes. >> there were a lot of kids on that neighborhood. you're running a lot of things through your mind when you're going there. who are the occupants that you're going to have to rescue? >> the fire trucks raced to the
6:03 pm
home of a woman named anne charles and her children. part of the roof had already burned away. >> we were concentrating on getting up the steps and getting into those rooms that we were pretty sure we had victims. >> neighbors crowded in behind police barricades. one of them was an 18-year-old. an awkward sort of kid, immature for his age. he had strep throat that morning, was taking antibiotics, but nothing could keep him from this. his name was robert davis. >> everybody goes down there and starts watching. >> was the fire department there? >> yeah, the fire department was there by then. we sat there and watched, and for about five minutes. one of the people asked us to a truck that was maybe 100 yards, 200 yards away, to get some oxygen. it felt good being able to help out. >> carol greenley lived next door. she stood beside robert, watched the fire, worried about the
6:04 pm
pretty young mother trapped in there, anne charles. >> she would come outside and play with the kids. and we would talk here and there. but she was a really nice person. >> and then something good. anne's two daughters katie and wendy escaped unharmed from their downstairs bedrooms. but that left anne and little thomas, just 3 years old, unaccounted for, somewhere upstairs. >> we put the fire out and started checking the bedroom for occupants. >> nothing good after that. upstairs, firemen found little thomas on the floor, beneath the window, dead of smoke inhalation. chief gentry steeled himself for what might be next. he felt his way through debris and lingering smoke to anne's room. >> i crawled over to the bunk bed. and that's where we found a victim in the bunk bed, and that person was secured in the bunk bed, both hands and both legs
6:05 pm
were secured. >> tied up? >> yeah, tied up. >> now that put an entirely different complexion on things. this wasn't just a fire. so what did that tell you? >> right there, that keys up, this is a crime scene. so we basically extinguished the fire, left everything as is. >> and then, forensic investigator larry clater took over. >> the one thing that was out of place, there was a five-gallon bucket sitting right in the middle of to living room floor with an empty bottle of rubbing alcohol. >> an empty bottle of rubbing alcohol? >> it didn't look like it belonged there. >> upstairs, scattered near anne's body, clater found three aerosol cans. quite probably also accelerants. all of that liquid kindling for murder. >> there was a blob of melted plastic consistent with a smoke detector melted and laying on the floor. and then there was a battery, a
6:06 pm
9 volt battery that looked like it would go to a smoke detector in the sink. >> so somebody had taken it out of the smoke detector. >> someone had removed it. >> so cruel and deliberate. all the more shocking, in a town where murder is exceedingly rare, said detective phil giles. >> it's not a common occurrence or style of homicide. >> how did it hit you? >> you have a victim, and a child. a child, that always touches you in a different way, because it's a 3-year-old child. >> these things do touch you personally, don't they? yeah. outside, the curious onlookers were a beat behind. all they knew was that anne charles and her little boy were no more. >> it just devastated me. i was in shock. especially about that little boy. >> yeah. >> and still didn't know what had happened really. >> it wasn't long, though,
6:07 pm
watching the silent, stern faces streaming in and out of that little house. a person couldn't help but put two and two together. >> it was very scary. i think the whole neighborhood was scared. coming up, right there in that very neighborhood, police would find their suspects. >> they had recovered a knife. >> quick work from investigators. two suspects. two confessions. >> it was supposed to be routine. we go in, we find the purse, and we leave. >> these are intimate details that only those involved are going to know. >> were they telling the truth? when "dateline extra" continues. to insure, which saves money. they let you pay your bill electronically, which saves postage, which saves money. they settle claims quickly, which saves time, which saves money. and they offer home and auto insurance, so you can bundle your policies, which saves money. esurance was born online and built to save. and when they save, you save.
6:08 pm
that's auto and home insurance for the modern world. esurance, an allstate company. click or call. maybe... the skate park today? you can make it gr-r-reat! ♪ kellogg's frosted flakes gives you the sweet spark to go all in and let your great out. they're gr-r-reat! would suffice for jordan's bachelor party. i don't need a sword, i'm a firemaid. ding dong! i'm going to give this place a killer review. i don't know, i just always thought maybe my bachelor party would be a little less g-rated. wench! ahhh! ahhh hahaha... oooh! party time! party boy! ok, ok. mm hm, party time. hmm, mmm, mmm... what makes wendy's baconator different? while the other guys use frozen beef from far away. wendy's only serves fresh beef from ranches close by. so we don't have to freeze it. add six strips of thick, applewood smoked bacon.
6:09 pm
and wendy's baconator isn't just different, it's deliciously different.
6:10 pm
welcome back. a single mom and her little boy killed in a house fire. neighbors helpless to save them. but as investigators quickly discovered, this fire was no accident. evidence independepointed to ar
6:11 pm
the murder of a young mother, as detectives search for suspects, the neighborhood's heartbreak turned to fear. who would want anne charles dead? and was the murderer still in their midst? here again is keith morrison with "the interrogation." >> at first, it was just a rumor that sped around little crozet, virginia, february 2003. but pretty soon, everybody knew it was true. it wasn't any ordinary fire robert davis witnessed. >> hear about it in the grocery store or the gas stations or stuff like that. >> so it was clear that it was a murder. >> yes, sir. >> anne charles and her 3-year-old thomas were dead, horribly. the forensics man got a better look at it than anybody. >> this is probably one of the more horrendous cases i had worked in my career. >> larry couldn't give investigators much to go on. a few small footprints in the
6:12 pm
snow out back. but forget dna. any possibility of finding that was flushed away by fire hosers. >> and then i get word from the medical examiner's office that they had recovered a knife that was sticking in the woman's back. >> what did you think when you heard that? >> i went back to my photographs. sure enough, in the middle of her back was the knife. >> so someone stabbed her, but who? firefighters tipped police that a brother/sister duo across the street, rocky and jessica fuget had been watching the fire, claimed to know the victims. robert davis and his friend kevin marsh knew them as aggressive troublemakers at high school. >> people were afraid of them. would just -- they come through the hallway, people would just move out the way for them. try not to be around them. >> and kevin's friend, shy and awkward robert, seemed to be a favorite target. >> they used to pick on him all the time. they called him retarded, fat, ugly, stupid. >> robert said he tried to ignore it, but they knew his
6:13 pm
vulnerabilities. >> you know, i tried to keep my distance when i could. stay cordial wherever we were in close proximity to each other. >> safer that way, said robert. in any case, the detectives paid a visit to the fugets' house, where they learned enough to march the pair down to police headquarters two days later for questioning. rocky admitted he was there. to rob the place. >> i was in the house. i started out downstairs. >> detective phil giles interviewed jessica. >> she eventually acknowledged she tried to say it was somebody else first. and then at some point put herself there. >> it was supposed to be routine. we find her purse, take her money, and we leave, and that was all that was supposed to happen. >> but then, rocky went way off script, said jessica. tied anne to her bed with duct tape and turned it into murder.
6:14 pm
>> who set the place on fire? >> rocky. >> okay. who cut anne's throat? >> rocky. >> who stabbed anne in the back? >> rocky. >> okay. >> jessica told detective giles the murder weapons were a kitchen knife and a metal rod for bludgeoning, which they stashed in a hole out behind the house. >> we drove her out there, and we walked the entire path until we got to the hole, said that's it right there. reached in, discovered those two items were right there. >> what was that like? >> these are intimate details and only those involved are beginning to know where the instruments were that were used to kill someone. >> so that was that. they had their story and their culprits. except there was one more very significant detail offered up by both jessica and rocky. something the town's rumor mill failed to catch by the time kevin and robert went out for the evening a couple of days
6:15 pm
later. >> we went bowling. we went out to eat. just had a grand old time. >> by that time, it was after midnight. about time to go home, to bed. >> we're sitting in the parking lot, talking, just laughing. and all of a sudden multiple police cars pull up. they get out, guns drawn. they order me out of the vehicle first. they get me walking backwards to them with my hands up. >> then, through all the terror and confusion, it dawned on kevin marsh. it wasn't him they had come for. >> so then i see them getting robert out. kicking him by his feet. knocking him to the ground. ramming his face into the asphalt. putting him in the handcuffs. >> the story the fugets told the police, they had accomplices when they murdered anne charles. and one was robert davis. coming up -- >> i was scared. i was shaking. >> now it would be robert davis's turn in the
6:16 pm
interrogation room. >> why don't you tell me what took place that night? >> when "dateline extra" continues. program to earn free nights. which i can use for my new friends here. thanks, captain obvious. you're welcome. roger that, sir. my name isn't roger. supported by
6:17 pm
6:18 pm
6:19 pm
welcome back. i'm tamron hall. here's keith morrison with more of our story, "the interrogation." >> by all accounts, including his own, robert davis was a mama's boy. because of his childlike ways perhaps, or his learning disabilities maybe. >> he's easy to play. he's like me. he's got a kind heart. he's gullible. >> robert seemed to need his mother sandy to protect him from the big, bad world. while he took care of her when she was attacked by chronic illness. medication for which tends to slur her speech. >> he's a big dude, but he's a teddy bear. he always wanted to grow up and be in health care like i was. >> mind you, robert did get into trouble once over a petty theft, and his learning disabilities landed him in a special school for several years. but the good thing, a family
6:20 pm
acquaintance was a school resource police officer. his name was randy snead. he had known robert and his mom for years. robert looked up to randy, trusted him. so when officer snead, now a detective with the county police came looking for robert after the fire, sandy told him without hesitation where he could find her son. >> i said robert in trouble? he said, he's in serious trouble. >> but sandy had no idea just how serious. or what was about to happen in that parking lot where robert was hanging out with his friends. >> gun's pointed at you, you're wondering what's going on. i mean, i was scared. i was shaking. >> why robert? because the fuget siblings told police they had accomplices from their high school and he was one of them. another one was pulled in that same night and interviewed by detective giles and his partner. >> at the end of the interview, we were like, this kid has no
6:21 pm
idea what we're talking about. >> so the fugets had lied when they fingered him. the kid was eventually released. but robert? robert had a far different experience in the interview room. and a different detective. and there sitting across from you was randy snead. >> yeah. >> you knew him. >> i knew him. since i was 12 or 13. so i was on a first name basis with him. >> kind of a friend. >> yeah. because i've known him for so long. >> why don't you tell me, robert, what took place that night. you tell me your story. >> i was at my house, man. >> at first, robert swore he was innocent. six hours later, he had confessed to murder. >> i stabbed her. >> you stabbed her, didn't you? >> one or two times. >> everything you've told me is true, correct? >> true. >> everything you've done is true, correct? >> later that day, officer snead allowed robert to call his mother. >> i said, robert, what did you
6:22 pm
say? he said, since they wanted to hear that, i told them fine. >> what did it feel like in here when you heard that from your son? >> i felt like i was going to have a heart attack and die. >> around the neighborhood, people who had known robert for years couldn't believe it. >> he was always polite. and i knew robert was a follower. >> uh-huh. >> and i just still couldn't believe that robert was involved. >> and yet, the boy said it himself. >> why would he confess to something that he didn't do? >> robert's mother couldn't afford an attorney. so the state appointed one for him. steve rosenfield. >> what was your impression when you first met him? >> robert was scared to death from the first meeting and forever. >> and then robert told attorney rosenfield just about what you'd expect an accused murderer might
6:23 pm
say. he didn't do it. he didn't stab anybody. he wasn't even there. he only confessed, he said, because he was so scared. did you push hard enough to find out whether or not he was actually telling you the truth or playing you? >> i take what the client tells me, and i do an independent evaluation based on what i learn. >> so, he watched the tape of robert's confession. which didn't look right to him. besides -- >> there was no physical evidence at the crime scene to tie robert to the crime. >> but just as intriguing was this question. >> why would rocky and jessica include a kid like robert? >> the fuget siblings, as the kids at school and the neighborhood knew, bullied robert mercilessly, and he was terrified of them. surely, he wouldn't help them murder the neighbor lady. yet rocky fuget was going to tell the court just that. >> his lawyer had advised me that rocky wanted to get a
6:24 pm
favorable sentencing and was going to be testifying against robert. >> so, big problems. rosenfield knew from long experience that any jury hearing rocky's testimony and robert's confession would certainly convict. robert would very probably get a life sentence, no parole. robert's only chance of ever getting out of prison was to agree to something called an alford plea. >> we told robert if you plead guilty under an alfred plea, you admit that there is sufficient evidence to prove your guilt, but you do not admit that you're guilty. >> it meant accepting a 23-year prison sentence. it also meant he could never file an appeal. >> 37 years of practice, it is the hardest decision i've made to strongly recommend a client to take a plea for something he didn't do. >> but at least it wasn't life. he was sentenced at 20, would be
6:25 pm
free in his early 40s. >> the day i was standing in front of my judge, taking the alfred plea. and just praying that one day, hopefully, the truth will come out that i wasn't there. >> the fugets avoided the death penalty, but they got what amounted to life without parole. and steve rosenfield faithfully drove out to visit robert in prison. knowing the only way to get him out was to persuade the virginia governor to issue a pardon. fat chance of that. >> it's a pretty big long shot of getting him out before the 23 years for which he was sentenced. >> and then, two years after robert went to prison, rosenfield opened the mail and found a letter from, of all people, rocky fugett. >> dear, mr. rosenfield, i have some information about robert that i think can be awfully beneficial. you're welcome to come visit me.
6:26 pm
>> snail mail. rest assured, steve rosenfield's drive to the prison was much quicker. coming up, help is on the way from inside prison walls. and outside. >> this is one of the most intense interrogations that i've ever seen. >> that interrogation would soon be key to the case. >> i can't lie about the evidence. >> he's lying about lying. >> when "dateline extra" continues. sure! it's free for everyone. oh! well that's nice! and checking your score won't hurt your credit. oh! (to dog)i'm so proud of you. well thank you. get your free credit scorecard at even if you're not a customer.
6:27 pm
esuthey offer a claim-freece a smarter discount.h saves money.
6:28 pm
because safe drivers cost less to insure, which saves money. they let you pay your bill electronically, which saves postage, which saves money. they settle claims quickly, which saves time, which saves money. and they offer home and auto insurance, so you can bundle your policies, which saves money. esurance was born online and built to save. and when they save, you save. that's auto and home insurance for the modern world. esurance, an allstate company. click or call. [ hip♪ olympics 2016, let ] me get you on my level. ♪ ♪ so you never miss a moment, ♪ ♪ miss a minute, miss a medal. ♪ why settle when you can have it all? ♪ ♪ soccer to wrestling. track and field to basketball. ♪ ♪ fencing to cycling. diving to balance beam. ♪ ♪ all you have to say is, ♪ "show me," and boom it's on the screen. ♪ ♪ from the bottom of the mat, ♪ ♪ to the couch where you at? ♪
6:29 pm
♪ "show me the latest medal count?" ♪ ♪ xfinity's where it's at. ♪ welcome to it all. comcast nbcuniversal is proud to bring you coverage of the rio olympic games. hi, i'm richard lui with your hour's top stories. wisconsin governor scott walker says the national guard has been activated and members of the state patrol brought in to help local law enforcement in milwaukee. trying to avoid a repeat of last night's violence in the city. six businesses were set on fire and four officers were injured in protests over the fatal police shooting of an armed suspect. firefighters are battling a fast-moving fire in northern california. evacuations have been ordered in the area near lower lake, california.
6:30 pm
now back to "dateline extra." welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. despite his confession, robert davis later insisted he was an innocent man. it's not the first time an inmate would make this claim, but robert was about to get help proving it. would it be enough to persuade a governor? continuing with the interrogation, here's keith morrison. >> attorney steve rosenfield was in for a big surprise when he arrived at rocky fugett's prison. >> it was shocking. >> it certainly was. rocky wanted to sign a sworn affidavit saying robert davis was innocent, had nothing to do with the murders. >> that was pretty powerful for him to do that considering his circumstances. nothing to gain. >> but rocky's admission wasn't enough to undo robert's
6:31 pm
confession. and then seven years into robert's prison sentence, rosenfield answered a phone call. and there she was. lawyer are nyrider of northwest university's innocence project is a leading expert in false confessions by young people. she heard about robert's case and offered to help. and help us understand what happened to robert as we watch the interrogation unfold. >> this is one of the most intense interrogations that i've ever seen. >> you have the right to remain silent. anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. >> you've got these officers very close to robert, increasing the pressure without even touching him. >> randy snead, a man robert has long trusted, begins the interview at 2:00 a.m., by which time robert has been awake 18 hours. >> never been in that house? >> no. >> again and again, more than 70
6:32 pm
times, robert insists he is innocent. >> i had nothing to do with this. i swear to god. >> nine times, robert asks for a polygraph. >> i will take a polygraph test right now. i am being honest. i will take a polygraph test. i have said that how many times? officer snead, i was not there. i will take a polygraph test right now to prove to you that i was not there. >> when you've got somebody in the interrogation room who offers to take a polygraph, that's a strong sign of innocence that should be disregarded. >> and then snead's partner ups the ante. they have evidence, he says. >> we know you were in the house. we have evidence that's going prove you were in the house. >> they don't, by the way, have any evidence of that. though it is legal for police to lie in an interrogation. just after 3:00 a.m., robert asked for his medicine. he has strep throat, remember. he's also asthmatic. >> i need to take my third dose.
6:33 pm
>> robert's been awake for nearly 20 hours. >> i want to call my mom, tell her that i love her. i'm sorry for all the pain that i've ever put her through. >> more than a dozen times, he says he's tired and needs sleep. several times, he tries to sleep on the cold floor. at 5:17 a.m., for no explained reason, they attach shackles to robert's ankles. more than four hours into the interrogation, randy snead tells robert he has more bad news. overwhelming evidence of robert's guilt. >> i got evidence out the ass. human dead skin, that can be picked up. that's dna. if you don't talk to me, i can't keep you -- >> i wasn't there. >> robert, you were.
6:34 pm
you were there. the evidence shows you were there. the evidence shows it. i can't lie about the evidence. >> and not only was that false, there was no dna found in this case, but the officer then goes on to say i can't lie to you about this, robert. so in fact he's lying about lying. >> officer snead tells robert he faces what snead calls the ultimate punishment. he also says, falsely, that he's been talking to robert's mother on the phone. >> i told your mom that i would try to keep you from the most ultimate punishment you can do that. i'm trying to do that and you're not helping me. i can't do no more. >> what was going on in there? >> there you see the police officer suggesting to robert that he's going to face death. and you also see the officer very cleverly using robert's relationship with his mother. >> and that's when robert's resolve begins to weaken. >> what can i say that i did to get me out of this?
6:35 pm
>> just before 7:00 a.m., five hours in, robert begins to bargain. >> how many years would it be if you're just on the porch? >> when will i go home? >> huh? >> when will i go home? will i go home now? >> i can't promise you. i'm going to do everything i can to make sure your mom -- and we can maybe get you home. >> then, hoping it might get him home to his mother, robert offers a story he hopes will satisfy snead. >> i never went upstairs. i stood right there at the door. and once i heard something, i got scared and i ran. >> robert, sitting here trying to tell me the acts that took place is ridiculous. >> then snead lies to robert again. this time, about one of the murder weapons. >> there's an item that you touched, all right? that left some particles on it
6:36 pm
that did some damage to somebody. >> i think it was a bat. >> a bat? >> a baseball bat. >> some type of -- >> clubbing device. >> snead knows the weapon was really a metal rod. >> and i hit her two times. because they said if i didn't, it would be -- >> wait a minute. i got somebody else clubbing her, robert. i got someone else doing that act. >> robert has it wrong. jessica already confessed that rocky clubbed anne charles. >> you did another act. you know what that act is. and we know. that's the thing that has something on it that's yours. >> what would that be? >> well, i'm not going to tell you. you're going to tell me. >> so again, robert starts guessing. >> i didn't rape nobody. >> no, i'm not saying that. >> i didn't kill the baby. >> i'm not saying that you raped
6:37 pm
anybody. >> i didn't cut nobody. >> i didn't say you cut. >> i didn't shoot nobody. >> i didn't say you shot nobody. >> robert, since you're not going to tell me, you stabbed that woman. you stabbed her, didn't you? >> one or two times. >> then snead asks robert where? >> whereabouts on her body? >> in the middle. >> and again, snead corrects him. >> you had a knife in your hand. all right? and prior to stabbing her in the back, you cut her. >> it was essentially the police's confession, not robert's. >> do you think there's any way i'm going to go home? >> i doubt it. >> why am i lying to you about all this just so i can go home? i am lying you full front to your face. i am lying to you. >> i am lying to you just so i can go home. which is exactly what juveniles
6:38 pm
who have falsely confessed say was their motivating factor for falsely confessing. >> but by 8:00 a.m., six hours after the interrogation began, randy snead has his confession. >> what you said tonight, this morning to me, is that true and accurate statement? >> yes. >> okay. >> when rosenfield delivered a clemency petition to virginia governor bob mcdonald, nyrider added volumes of evidence in support. and then, as they waited for an answer -- >> out of nowhere, jessica sent a dear mr. rosenfield letter. she admitted to the throat cutting, the stab wounds to the back, and absolutely adamant that robert had nothing to do with it whatsoever. >> so jessica's affidavit was sent off to the governor, too. and everybody waited. and waited. and then on the governor's very last day in office, more than
6:39 pm
nine years into robert's sentence, a decision. denied. rosenfield, devastated, drove to the prison to tell robert. >> robert and i hugged, cried, and it's probably about the most painful part of this process. >> robert's only door to freedom slammed shut. but half a world away, someone else was watching robert's case. could his opinion make a difference? coming up -- >> isn't a confession the strongest evidence you can get? >> not always. >> the police detective in robert's corner. when "dateline extra" continues. . and everyone knows me for discounts, like safe driver and paperless billing. but nobody knows the box behind the discounts. oh, it's like my father always told me -- "put that down. that's expensive." of course i save people an average of nearly $600, but who's gonna save me?
6:40 pm
[ voice breaking ] and that's when i realized... i'm allergic to wasabi. well, i feel better. it's been five minutes. talk about progress. [ chuckles ] okay.
6:41 pm
6:42 pm
welcome back.
6:43 pm
piece by piece, evidence mounted that robert davis may, in fact, be innocent. that confession, experts insisted, was coerced. even the admitted killer swore robert had nothing to do with the murders, and still, he sat in prison. his petition for clemency denied. then support from an unlikely source, and a second chance for freedom. back with more of "the interrogation," here's keith morrison. >> this is the coffeewood prison. robert davis's home, this and other places like it, for something like 40% of his life. every moment of those years, dictated by one long night with officer randy snead at the miserable exhausted end of which robert said the words he cannot take back. >> you stabbed that woman. >> i stabbed her. >> you stabbed her, didn't you? >> one or two times. >> most people would say, i would never, ever in a million years confess -- >> or how could you be so stupid
6:44 pm
and not know? i was young. i didn't know. i was naive. i was scared. >> robert is not alone, of course. there are people like him in situations just like his in jails and prisons all around the country who confessed as teenagers to crimes they maybe didn't commit. in fact, to prevent that very thing, police departments in many other countries banned or dispensed years ago with interrogation techniques still used in america. had the murder happened elsewhere, perhaps here in the united kingdom, it's probable robert would have been brought in for questioning. he was named by a suspect by others in the case. but the chances that he would have been charged or even interviewed for very long, close to zero. >> the interview, as it is on the recording, would not be legal in the uk. and that evidence would not have been admitted to trial. >> this is andy griffiths, 26 years a detective in the sussex
6:45 pm
police department, internationally recognized for his work in investigative interview techniques. when he was a rookie, british interrogation rules were much like they are in the u.s., but they are not anymore. what happened to precipitate these changes in the united kingdom? >> changes really came about through problems. >> like a national scandal after a series of high profile false confessions, including an arson murder case eerily similar to robert davis's. >> so the government instigated a whole review of the way that prisoners were dealt with in custody. >> the result, a complete overhaul of the system. every officer in the uk retrained to rigorous standards that apply in every region of the country. strict rules were put in place for suspect interviews. all interviews in serious cases video recorded. >> there were two cameras up there. one gives a head and shoulders shot of the interviewee, and the
6:46 pm
idea behind that is if this interview was shown in court, it gives a clear picture of you. the other is a global view of the room. everyone who's in the room is shown in the picture. that's about showing exactly what happened. >> and this was key. no more lying. in america, it's legal for cops to lie to suspects. not here. could you, for example, go into this interview and say, i have a certain specific piece of evidence that tells me you're guilty, if you don't have that evidence? >> no, absolutely not. >> can you talk to a suspect for as long as you want to? >> no, you should only interview for two hours at a time, and you should take recognized breaks at meal times, prayer times, and nighttime. >> and someone a little challenged, like robert. >> they're entitled under the law to what's called an appropriate adult. that might be a parent. it might be a social worker. but they're entitled to that as well as their legal representative. >> when the interrogation rules
6:47 pm
were changed, many veteran officers were not happy. they resisted. detective trevor bowles remembers it well. >> senior people thought that this was a draconian piece of legislation that was going to prevent us from ever detecting anything ever again. >> you'd never solve a crime anymore. >> we'd never solve a crime anymore, but it was going to tie our hands behind that back and we would be unable to work with it. and they were wrong. >> very wrong. not only did false confessions all but stop, crime solving got better. >> detection rates and respective homicide in the uk are very high. they're up in the 90% mark. >> and along the way, said griffiths, confessions, a hallmark of case solving in the u.s., became much less important here in britain. >> we would not prosecute somebody solely on a confession. so if someone did make a confession, we would try and corroborate what they said. so you'd have the supporting evidence as well. >> but isn't a confession the
6:48 pm
strongest evidence you can get? >> not always. >> what's wrong with it? >> what confessions tend to do is they shape this confirmation bias. people then look for supporting evidence to support what's being said because the confession exists. >> so, we asked griffiths to watch with us robert davis's interrogation. and -- >> what this guy's problem was, he was arrested last. and what they're saying is that we gospel believe the people that are arrested first, so you just need to confirm what we know. that's clearly not a good approach for an investigator. >> the time of day of the interview, the length of the interview, the use of leg irons halfway through the interview, the clear requests for medication and sleep at various points of the interview were all red flags. >> when you looked at the whole thing as you did, you sat back and you thought afterwards --
6:49 pm
>> the life blood of any account is reliability. and the way this is done is you can't vouch for the reliability. >> we asked for his opinion and he gave it to us. robert's confession wasn't believable. what we didn't expect was what happened a few months later. when this british detective spoke to steve rosenfield and offered to write virginia's governor, adding his support to robert davis's clemency petition, a petition now waiting on the desk of a new governor. coming up -- >> i believe that the confession is an unreliable confession. >> strong words from the chief of police and from the governor's office, the wait begins. when "dateline extra" continues. like bundling home and auto coverage, which reduces red tape, which saves money. when they save, you save. that's home and auto insurance for the modern world. esurance, an allstate company. click or call.
6:50 pm
get between you and life's dobeautiful moments.llergens flonase gives you more complete allergy relief. most allergy pills only control one inflammatory substance. flonase controls 6. and six is greater than one. flonase changes everything. ♪ [announcer] is it a force of nature? or a sales event? the summer of audi sales event is here. get up to a $5,000 bonus on select audi models. words panera lives by. no artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners. no colors from artificial sources. 100% of our food will be clean by year's end. that's food as it should be. ♪
6:51 pm
like bundling home and auto coverage, which reduces redney. tape, which saves money. when they save, you save. that's home and auto insurance for the modern world. esurance, an allstate company. click or call.
6:52 pm
6:53 pm
>> a new governor was taking office. would he consider the case, or was the young man so many believed innocent destined to spend another decade in jail? here's keith morrison with the conclusion of "the interrogation." >> for years, steve rosenfield made his case for legal conferences to anybody who would listen. during those same years, we tried repeatedly to contact and interview randy snead, the officer. he wasn't in office when sthene
6:54 pm
was detected. >> i think he acted in the best interest. there wasn't a bit of malice feels about this? >> i think he acted in the best interest. i think there wasn't a -- bit of malice in his actions. i think he had a -- very strong relationship with robert davis. >> reporter: but this was interesting. chief sellers did not support snead's interrogation. not at all. >> i will say this. i believe that the confession is an unreliable confession. >> reporter: what's more, the chief updated police methods when he took over to help prevent the kind of interrogation that ended up in robert's confession. >> i can't tell your mom that i can save you from the ultimate. >> reporter: as you look at that, what are things that would not be done? >> using terms like the ultimate punishment. length of the interview, those kinds of things would be clear -- clearly not done today. >> reporter: cold comfort for robert davis -- who, by 2014, had been in prison going on 11 years. a decade plus to go. unless -- there was a new governor, terry mcauliffe in office now. so rosenfield renewed his appeal for clemency, though he was well
6:55 pm
aware that a tiny percentage of such petitions are ever granted. and as month after month went by, it wasn't clear what, if anything, was happening. >> what's disturbing about the clemency process is that it's secretive. >> reporter: but what rosenfield didn't know is that this time it was different. the governor, in fact, ordered a new investigation. >> law offices. >> reporter: and just before christmas, we were there when the call came. the governor's office. >> hey carlos, it's steve. >> reporter: and there it was. finally. the words he'd been hoping to hear year after year after year. robert davis was about to be set free.
6:56 pm
>> i'm elated. just in time for the holidays. today is robert's mother's birthday. >> come on, sandy, pick up. >> hello? >> sandy, it's steve. set another plate for tonight's dinner. i'm going up to pick robert up. >> oh, my god! >> i think this will be the last time i ever see this prison. >> reporter: at last, the final drive to robert's prison with the news that both had dreamed of for all those years. >> hey, robert. >> hello, hello, hello. >> reporter: how are you feeling? >> i'm -- i'm elated. i -- can't -- words can't describe it. words cannot describe. i'm just so happy. if it wasn't for that man fightin' for me right there i wouldn't be out right now. and this is just overwhelmin' right now. i'm outside of these fences, man! hello. i'm just getting ready to pull out. yeah, it's unreal, mom!
6:57 pm
as long as this ain't a dream, i'm leaving right now. >> reporter: and that very night, robert was together again with his mother, his brother, and freedom. >> robert! it's you. it's you. this is my boy. he's home! >> reporter: how does it feel out here? >> it feels great, man. >> reporter: a few weeks ago we came to see robert here in his new apartment in charlottesville, virginia, his very own apartment. in which, he tells us, there is
6:58 pm
no room for bitterness. too much to do. so here we are. >> yup. this is my humble home. >> reporter: not bad. >> yeah. yeah. >> reporter: how does it feel? >> man, it feels great, man. i just -- i haven't stopped smiling since i've come home. >> reporter: ha ha ha. i can tell. what are you planning to do with your life now? >> get a job and thrive. i've got this opportunity, and i don't wanna squander it, you know. that's a nice looking club. >> reporter: he's got a job working in a neighborhood deli. and he lives under the protective eye of the man who never stopped trying to prove his innocence, and who hasn't stopped yet. robert's pardon was "conditional," meaning he has a parole officer, an ankle bracelet, and -- still -- a record. >> well, i don't think the final chapter has been written on the robert davis story. this governor expressed to me that the door was open for a reconsideration toward an absolute pardon which would erase -- expunge his conviction. >> reporter: so he'd no longer have a record. just like he'd never been arrested at all. >> and that's a possibility -- down -- down the road. >> reporter: which, said
6:59 pm
laura nirider, is about the least robert deserves. robert, and untold others now languishing in american prisons, who confessed under duress to something they didn't do. >> slowly, these stories are beginning to make headlines, and so now we see eyes are beginning to open. questions are beginning to be asked around the country, and that is what happened in robert davis' case. >> reporter: one night of your life made a hell of a difference, didn't it? >> yeah, yeah. >> reporter: you know, it's a small town. have you ever run into randy snead? >> he lives here, but i haven't run into him.
7:00 pm
and if i was to see him walkin' down the street, i'd probably just keep walkin', 'cause i don't really have nothin' to say to him, except for, "i told you so. i told you that i was innocent." >> reporter: so he was. so he is. that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm tamera hall, thank you for watching. i could not believe it. i couldn't imagine anyone would want to hurt her. i had no idea what could have happened. >> married to her high school sweetheart's family meant everything to her. >> there was always a lot of talk about children. she wanted grandchildren. >> but it all went up in smoke the night she died in a mysterious and monstrous inferno.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on