tv Dateline Secrets Uncovered MSNBC May 16, 2020 2:00am-3:00am PDT
i'm craig melvin. >> andi' i'm natalie morales. >>'m and this is "dateline". >> we the jury find the defendant guilty. >> you actually think they read the wrong verdict. >> you feel so wrong and hopeless. >> 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. >> at 18, he was arrested for murder. adamant he was innocent. >> i had nothing to do with this. i swear to god.
>> so what could possibly have led to this? >> 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 thit but the officer is lying about lying. >> an extraordinary look inside. the interview room. >> i was scared. i was shaken. >> this was one of the most intense interrogations i have wa ever seen. ♪ welcome to "dateline". how could you confess to a crime you didn't commit? it seems to defy logic and common sense, but advocates say itca happens far more often tha any of us realize. here's keith morrison with "the
interrogation. >> a freak snowstorm. just before 9:00 a.m. winter or no, virginia was used to. the white blanket, a piercing sound. fire alarm. now the snowstorm was the last thing on fire chief preston gentry's mind. >> the alarm went off with occupant possibly trapped inside. that ramps everything up to full force. >> the alarm was on a street with starter homes. >> a lot of kids in the neighborhood. you are running a lot of things through your mind. who are the occupants that rue you're going to have to rescue? >> the fire trucks race to the home ofe a recently separated woman and her three children. thick black smoke poured in. part of the roof burned away. >> we were concentrating gettin up to steps and getting to the
rooms that we were pretty sure we had victims.at >> neighbors crowded in behind police barricades, and one of them was an 18-year old who lived up the street with a single a mom, an awkward sort o kid, a bit immature for his age. he had strep throat that ep morning, was taking antibiotics, but t nothing could keep him fr this. his name was robert davis. >> everybody goes down there and starts watching. >> was the fire department there by then? >> yes, the fire department was there by then. we sat there and watched for about five minutes and then one of the fire department people asked us f to go 100 yards away 200 yards away. it felt good being able to help out. >> kari greenly worried about the pretty young mother trapped in there and charles. >> she would come outside and play with the kids and we would talk here and there. but she was a really nice
person.wa >> and then something good. ann's two daughters, katie and wendy, escaped unharmed from the downstairs bedroom but that left ann and little thomas just 3 years old unaccounted for somewhere upstairs. d >> we put the fire out and then we started checking the bedroom for occupants. >> nothing could after that. upstairs, firemen found little thomas on the floor beneath the window. dead of smoke inhalation. chief gentry felt his way through debris and lingering smoke to ann's room. >> i crawled over to the bunk bed and found a victim in the wl bunk bed and that person was secured in the bunk bed. both hands and both legs. >> tied up? >> yep, 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 as a crime scene, so we basically extinguished the fire, left everything as is. >> and then forensic investigator larry crater took over. >> the one thing that kind of jumped out that was out of place, there was a 5-gallon bucket sitting right in the middle of i the living room flo with an empty bottle of rubbing alcohol. >> an empty bottle of rubbing alcohol? >> yeah, itbb didn't look like belonged there. >> upstairs scattered near ann's body he found three aerosol cans, 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 9-volt battery that looked like it would go to a smoke detector in the sink. >> so somebody hadte taken it o of the smoke detector? >> that's what it appeared to be, that someone had removed it.
>> so cruel and deliberate. all the more shocking, in a town where murder is exceedingly rare,ex said detective phil gil. >> it is not a common style. >> how did it hit you and members of the department? >> you have a victim and then a child. the child, of course, 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? t >> outside the curious onlookers were a beat behind.de all they knew is that ann 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. watching the silent stern faces streaming in and out of that g little house. a person couldn't help but put two and two together.ou >> it was very scary and i think
the whole neighborhood was scared. >> right there in that very neighborhood police would i fin their suspect. coming un coming up -- >> they had recovered a knife. >> quick work from investigators, two suspects, twe confessions. >> it was supposed to bect routine. we go in, find the purse and then we leave. >> were they telling the truth? when "dateline" continues. t tel. chances are you have some questions right now here are a couple answers... lysol disinfectant spray and lysol disinfecting wipes together can be used on over 100 surfaces. and kill up to 99.9% of germs. lysol. what it takes to protect.
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that sped around little crozet, virginia, that february 2003, but pretty soon everybody knew it was true. it wasn't any ordinary fire robert davis witnessed out on cling lane. >> 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. >> and charles aann charles and 3-year old were dead horribly. >> it was 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 snow out back. but forget dna. any possibility of finding that was flushed away by fire hoses. >> 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 and, 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 fugget, had been watching the fire, claimed to know the victims. robert davis and his friend kevin marsh knew them as aggressive troublemakers in high school. >> people were afraid of them. would just -- if they come through the hallway, people would just move out of the way for them, try not to be around them. >> and kevin's friend, the 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. >> he tried to ignore it but they knew his vulnerabilities. >> i tried to keep my distance from them when i could and stay cordial when we were in close proximity to each other. >> in any case, the detectives
made a visit to the house where they learned enough to march down two days later for questioning. rocky admitted he was there to rob the place. >> i was in the house. >> why were you in the house. >> the detective 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 go in, we find her purse, we take her money and then we leave. that is all that was supposed to happen. >> but then rocky went way off script, said jessica, tied ann to her bed with duct tape and turned it into murder. >> who set the place on fire? >> rocky. >> who cut ann's throat? >> rocky. >> who stabbed ann in the back? >> rocky. >> jessica told the detective the murder weapons were a kitchen knife and metal rod for
bludgeoning which they stashed in a hole outside ann's house. >> she said we probably couldn't find her without it so we drove her out there. we walked the entire path until we got to the hole and she said, that's it right there. lo and bemolhold, we had eviden folks with us. reached in and discovered those two items were there. >> what was it like? >> these were details and only those involved are going to know where the instruments were used to kill someone. >> that was that. they had their story and their culprits. except there was one more very significant detail offered up by both jessica and something the town's rumor mill failed to catch by the time kevin and robert went out to the evening a couple of days later. >> we went bowling. we went out to eat. just had a grand old time. >> by that time, it was after midnight and about time to go home to bed. >> we were sitting in the parking lot just talking, laughing. and all of the sudden, multiple police cars pull up.
they get out, guns drawn. they ordered me out of the vehicle first. they get me walking backwards to them with my hands up. >> then, through all of the terror and confusion, it dawned on kevin marsh. it wasn't him they'd 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 fuggetts told the police, they had accomplices when they murdered ann charles, and one was robert davis. >> coming up -- >> i was scared. i was shaking. >> now it would be robert davis' turn in the interrogation room. >> why don't you tell me, robert, what took place that night? >> when "dateline" continues. arw comes power, confidence, reassurance you're doing what's right, to protect your dog from fleas and ticks for a full month.
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♪ by all accounts, including his own, robert davis was a mama's boy. because of his child-like 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 and nursing like i was. >> mind you, robert did get into trouble once over a petit theft, and his learning disabilities landed him in a special school for several years. but the good thing? a family 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 albemarle county police, came looking for robert after the fire, sandy told him without hesitation where he could find her son. >> i says, is 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 friend. >> guns pointed at you. you're -- you're wondering what was going on. i mean i was scared, i was shaking. >> why robert? because the fugett 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 both looked at each other and this kid has no idea what we're talking about. he is clurleeless to what we're asking him. >> so the fugetts had lie fingered him and the kid was released. but robert? robert had a far different experience in the interview room and a different detective. >> and there sitting across from your was randy snead? >> randy snead, yeah. >> you knee him? >> i knew him since i was 12 or 13, so i -- 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 what happened. >> that night? i was at my house, man. >> at first robert swore he was innocent, but six hours later he had confessed to murder.
>> you stabbed her, didn't you? >> one or two times. >> everything you have told me is true, correct? >> true. >> everything you have done and been part of is true, correct? >> true. >> later that day officer snead allowed robert to call his mother. >> i said, robert, what did you say? he said, since they wanted to hear that, i told them fine. >> what did you 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, mannerable, and i knew robert was a follower, and i just still couldn't believe that robert was involved. >> and yet, the boy said it himself. >> why would he confidence 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 of him 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 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 fugett siblings as the
kids at school and in the neighborhood knew bullied robert mercilessly and he was terrified of them. surely he wouldn't help them murder the neighbor lady. yet rocky fugett was going to tell the court just that. >> his lawyer had advised me that rocky wanted to get a 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 and alford plea. >> and we told robert that if you plead guilty under an alford plea, you admit that there's 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 that 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 to 20, would be free in his early 40s. >> the day i was standing in front of the judge accepting that alford plea crying and just praying that one day, hopefully, the truth will come out that i wasn't there. >> the fugetts 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 is 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 are welcome to come visit me. >> snail mail. rest assured, steve rosenfield's drive to the prison was much quicker. coming up -- >> this is one of the most intense interrogations that i've ever seen. >> that interrogation will soon be the key to the case. >> i can't lie about the evidence. >> he's lying about lying. >> when "dateline" continues. ...with geico... ohhh...sorry! director's voice: here we go. from the top. and action for over 75 years people have saved money with gecko so.... director's voice: cut it! ...what...what did i say? gecko? i said gecko? aw... for over 75 year...(laughs. but still trying to keep it contained) director's voice: keep it together. i'm good. i'm good. for over 75...(uncontrollable laughter). what are you doing there? stop making me laugh.
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testing and contact tracing, and a second round of direct payments to americans. meanwhile, states are beginning to lift restrictions. retail stores open in oregon, nightclubs in oklahoma despite the threat of another surge. now back to "dateline". ♪ attorney steven 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 confession. and then seven years into robert's prison sentence rosenfield answered a phone call and there she was.
laura nyerider of the innocence project is a leading expert in false confessions by young people. she heard about robert's case and offered to help. >> what's really interesting -- >> and help us understand what happened to robert as we watched 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, very close to robert, who is a big guy, pushed into that corner, increasing the pressure without even touching him. >> randy snead, a man robert has long trusted, he gives the interview at 2:00 a.m. at which time robert has been awake 18 hours. >> never been in that house? >> no. >> again and again, more than 70 times. >> start telling the truth. >> i am telling the truth. >> 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. i am being honest. 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 have someone in the interrogation room that offers to take a polygraph, that's a strong sign of innocence that should not be disregarded. >> then his partner ups the ante. >> i was nowhere near the house. >> they have evidence, he says. >> we know you were in the house. we have evidence. >> they don't have any evidence of that, by the way. though it is legal for police to lie in an interrogation. >> there was a lot of people. >> just after 3:00 a.m., robert asked for his medicine. he had strep throat, remember? he's also asthmatic. >> i need to take my third dose -- >> i will give you penicillin once we get going, okay? you work with me, i'll work with you. >> robert's been awake for nearly 20 hours. >> i will call my mom, tell her that i love her.
sorry for all the pain that i've ever put her through. i had nothing to do with this. >> more than a dozen times he says he's tired and needs sleep, and 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 don't need it. i got evidence out the -- the evidence is made up mostly of kum skin. that's dna. i'm not going to be able to keep you from the worst, robert, if you don't talk to me. >> i wasn't there. >> robert, you were. you were there! the evidence shows you were there. 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, when, in fact, he is 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 sit there and i told your mom that i would sit here and try to keep you from the most ultimate punishment you can get, and i'm trying to do that and you're not even helping me help you. 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. >> what can i say? >> that's when robert's resolve begins to weaken. >> what can i say that i did to get me out of this? >> just before 7:00 a.m., five hours in, robert begins to bargain. >> how many years will it be if
i was just on the porch? >> how many years will it be if you're on the porch? >> will i go home? >> huh? >> will i go home then. >> i can't promise you. if you work with me, i'll work to make sure we maybe can get you home. >> then hoping it may get him home to his mother, robert offers a story he hopes will satisfy snead. >> i never went upstairs. i stood right there next to the door. once i heard something i got scared and i freaked and i ran. >> robert, sitting here, trying to tell me and hide 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 has left some particles on it that did some damage to somebody. what was that object, robert. >> i tell you, it was a bat.
>> a bat? >> some type of -- >> clubbing device. >> clubbing device. >> snead knows the weapon was a metal rod. >> i hit her two times because they said if i wasn't -- >> wait a minute, i got somebody else clubbing her, robert. i got someone else doing that act. you did another one. >> robert has it wrong. >> hit her in the head with a thing. >> jessica confessed that rocky clubbed ann charles. >> you did another act, you know what that act is and we know, and that's the thing that has your -- something on it that is yours. >> what would that be? >> well, ai'm not going to tell you. you're going to tell me what you did. >> so, again, robert did something. >> i didn't rape somebody. >> i'm not saying that. >> i didn't kill the baby. >> i didn't say you raped nobody. >> i didn't cut nobody. >> i didn't shoot nobody. >> robert, i'm going to come out and tell you what i'm getting,
all right, since you're not going to tell me. you stabbed that woman. >> i stabbed her? >> you stabbed her, didn't you? >> one or two times. >> then snead asks her where. >> whereabouts on her body? >> it was in the middle. >> and, again, snead corrects him. >> you had a knife in your hand, all right, and prior to stabbing -- stabbing her in the -- in the back, all right, you cut her. >> it was essentially the police's confession, not robert's. >> think if we do this i can go home. >> tonight? >> today. >> today? i doubt it. >> why am i lying about all of this to you so i can go home. >> you're not lying. >> i am, i am lying full throat to your face. i am lying to you. >> i'm lying to you just so i can go home, which is exactly what juveniles who have falsely confessed say was their motivating factor for falsely confessing. >> by 8:00 a.m., six hours after the interrogation began, randy
snead has his confession. >> what you said tonight -- or this morning to me, is that a true an accurate statement? >> yes. >> okay. >> when rosenfield delivered a clemency petition to virginia governor bob mcdonald, she 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 nine years into robert's sentence, a decision. denied. rosenfield, devastated, drove to
the prison to tell robert. >> robert and i hugged and we cried and probably it is about the most painful part of this process. >> robert's only door to freedom slammed shut. >> some of the tactics -- >> but half a world away someone else was watching robert's case. could his opinion make a difference? coming up -- the police detective in robert's corner when "dateline" continues. eline" continues. 24 key nutrients to feed your cells, supporting your energy so you can take care of what matters most. centrum. feed your cells. fuel your life.
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this is the coffeewood prison in mitchells, virginia, 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 her. >> one or two times. >> most people would say i would never, ever in a million years confess. >> or how could you be so stupid and not know, you know? i was young. i didn't know. i was naive, you know. 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 -- for example here in the united kingdom -- it's probable robert would have been brought in for questioning. he was, after all, named as 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 at trial. >> this is andy griffiths, 26 years a detective in the sussex police department, internationally recognized for his work in investigative interview techniques. when griffiths 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 of the day 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. the idea behind that is if the interview was shown in court it gives a clear picture of you. >> right. >> the other is a global view of the room, everyone who is 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 is legal for cops
to lie to suspects, not here. >> could you, for example go, g into an interview and say, i have a specific piece of evidence that tells me you're guilty if you don't have the evidence? >> no, absolutely not. >> can you talk to a suspect as long as you want to? >> no, you should only interview two hours at a time and take recognized breaks at meal times, prayer time 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. >> but when the interrogation rules were changed, many veteran officers were not happy. they resisted. detective trevor bowles remembers it well. >> senior people thought that there was a draconian piece of legislation that was going to prevent us from ever detecting anything ever again. >> you would never solve a crime
anymore. >> we would never solve a crime anymore and it would tie our hands behind our backs 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 in respect to homicide in the uk are very high. they're up in the 90% mark. >> and along the way, said griffiths, confessions of 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 the confession the 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 just to support what's being said because the confession exists. >> so we asked griffiths to watch with us robert davis's interrogation.
>> why don't you tell me, robert -- >> and -- >> what this guy's problem was, he was arrested last and what they're saying is we gospel believe the people that were arrested first, so you just need to confirm what we know. well, that's clearly not a good approach for an investigator. >> i'm blind, but i'm not. i swear to you that i'm not lying. take me because i -- >> 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? >> the life blood of any account is reliability, and the way this is done is you can't vouch for the reliability. >> we'd 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" continues. ues. guys, what's the matter? i heard there were fleas out here. and t-t-t-t-t-icks! and mosquitoooooooooooes! listen up, scaredy cats. we all have k9 advantix ii to protect us. it kills and repels fleas, ticks and mosquitoes, too.
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welcome back. convicted on a false confession, advocates were adamant that is what happened to robert davis. then new found hope. a new governor was taking office. would he consider the case or was the young man so many considered innocent destine to speak a decade in gentleman ill? here is the conclusion. >> i've never been emotional in a presentation as i feel in this case because i've grown very close with robert. >> for years, steve rosenfield made his case for robert davis to legal conferences, to anybody who would inch will, and robert remained right where he was, in prison. during those same years, we tried repeatedly to contact and
introo y interview randy sneed. but as close as we go the, colonel steve sellers. he wasn't an officer when steve was a detective, but -- >> i think there wasn't a bit of malice in his actions. i think he had a very strong relationship with robert davis. >> but this was interesting. chief sellers did not support sneed's interrogation, not at all. >> i will say this. i believe that the confession is an unreliable confession. >> is what's more, the chief updated police methods when he took over to help prevent the kind of interrogation that resulted in robert's confession. as you look at it, what are things that would not be done? >> engt will of the use, using terms like the ultimate
punishment. those kind of things would be clearly not done today. >> 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 mccauliff in office now. rosenfield renewed his appeal for clemency. 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. >> but what rosenfield incident did know is that this time it was irchbt did. the governor, in fact, ordered a new investigation. and just before christmas 2015, we were there when the call came from the governor's office. >> hey, carlos, it's steve. and there it was, finally, the words he had been hoping to hear
year after year after year. robert davis was about to be set froo he. >> i'm elated, just in time for the holidays. today is robert's mother's birthday. >> come on, sandy, pick up. >> 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. >> at last, the final drooive to robert's prison with the news that both had dreamed of for all those years. how are you feeling? >> i'm elated. words cannot describe it. i'm just so happy. if it wasn't for that man fighting for me right there, i wouldn't be out right now. and this is just overwhelming right now.
i'm outside of these fences, man. hello? i'm just getting ready to pull out. yeah. it's unreal, mom. as long as this ain't a dream, i'm leaving right now. >> and that very night, robert was together again with his mother, his brother and froo he come. my boy, he's home. a few weeks later, we came to see robert here in his new apartment in charlottesville, virginia. his very own apartment. in which he tells us there is no room for bitterness. there's too much to do.
>> not bad. >> yeah. yeah. >> how does it feel? >> man, it feels gra et. i haven't stopped smiling incidence is i came home. >> what are you planning to do with your life now? >> get a job and thrive. i've got this opportunity and i don't want to squander it, you know? that's a nice looking club. >> he's go the a jo, 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. >> this governor expressed to me that the door was open for a reconsideration toward an absolute pardon, which would erase, expunge his conviction. >> and on december 16th, 2016, governor mccauliff did just
that, gra ntinting robert davis full pardon. just one month later, robert's mother, sandy, died in a car crash. she had said her greatest joy was seeing her son exonerated. laura bloo e laura believes there are untold others serving time in prisons who confess to things they incident did do. >> eyes are beginning to open. questions are beginning to be asked around the country. and that is what happened in robert davis' case. >> one night of your life made a hell of a ircht diabetdifferenc did you? >> it's a small town. have you ever run into randy he had? >> it is a small town. i haven't seen him. if i were to see him walking down the stroo eeet, i'd probab
just keep walking. i don't have anything to say to him except for i'm innocent. i told him i was. >> that's all for this episode of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. iffirst up on msnbc, the administration's efforts to create a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the user. this morning, though, the reality check. as more states reopen, business as usual is anything but. at the pennsylvania state capital, not much social distancing by protesters, but the political distance could not be wider. >> staggered reopening. a broad look this morning at parts of the country slowly trying to get back to normal as some bars, restaurants and salons reopen. >> back to e