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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  July 3, 2022 1:00am-2:00am PDT

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>> what would you call yourself? >> i mean, people have called me a survivor, i would call myself lucky. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, good night. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> and this is dateline. >> we, the jury, find the defendant guilty. >> as you can they read the wrong verdict. >> you feel so 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.
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adamant he was innocent. >> i had nothing to do with this. i swear to god. >> so, what could've possibly led to this? >> you stab that women. >> why would he convince to something you didn't do? >> why would he? what's really happened during that police interrogation. >> the evidence shows you were there. i can lie about the evidence. >> i can't lie to you about this. the officers lying about lying. >> and extraordinary look inside the interview room. >> if you don't talk to me i can't keep -- >> this is one of the most intense interrogations i've 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, it's happens for more often than any of us realizes.
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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 am, winter or no, crozet, virginia was not used to this. and then through the white deadening blanket that barryton town, a piercing sound. a fire alarm. now the store storm was the last thing a fire chief was on his mind. >> -- house fire with occupants, possibly trapped inside. that wraps everything up to full force. >> the alarm was on a quiet street, lined with starter homes. >> there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood. your warning or a lot of things to mind when you're going through there who are the occupants are gonna have to rescue. >> the fire trucks race to the home of recently separated woman, named and charles, and her three children. thick black smoke poured from
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the second story eaves, part of the roof is 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 credit down bill -- one of them was an 18 year old who lived up the street from a single mom. an awkward sort of kid, a bit immature for his age. he had struck throughout that morning, was taking antibiotics and nothing could keep him from this. his name was robert davis. >> everyone goes down there and stars watching. >> was a fire department there? >> yes. they were there. we sat there and watched. for about five minutes, and one of the fire department people asked us to get some oxygen tanks. it felt good being of the help out. >> -- live right next door. she stood beside robert, watch the fire, worry about the pretty, young mother trapped in their.
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i and charles. >> she would come outside, play with the kids, and we will talk here and there. she was a really nice person. >> something good. and two daughters, katie and wendy, escaped unharmed from their downstairs bedroom. but, that left an and little thomas, just three years aboard, a unaccounted for. >> we put the fire out and then we 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 -- through debris and lingering smoke fans room. >> i called over to the bunk bed and that's where we found a victim in the bunk bed. that person was secured in the bunk bed, both hands and legs were secured. >> tied up? >> yeah, tied up. >> now that put an entirely
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different complexion on things. this wasn't just a fire. so, what did that tell you? >> that this is a crime scene. we basically extinguish the fire, left everything as is. >> then, larry clutter, the forensic investigator at the time took over. >> the one thing that jumped out, it was a five gallon bucket sitting in the middle of the living room floor, with an empty bottle of rubbing off all. >> an empty bottle of rubbing alcohol? >> yep, didn't look like a belong. they're >> upstairs, scattered near the body, plater found three aerosol cans. quite probably all accelerants. all of that liquid kindling for murder. >> it was a blob of melted plastic, consistent with the smoke detector, melted and laid on the floor. there was a battery that looked like it would go to a smoke detector in the sink.
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>> so somebody had taken it out of this one protector -- >> that's when it appeared to be. >> so cool and deliberate. all the more shocking in a town where a murder is exceedingly rare. >> it's not a common occurrence. >> how did it hit you and members of the department? >> you have a victim, and you also have a child. the child, of course, that always touches you in a different way. it's a three year old child. >> these things do touch, you personally, don't they? >> outside, the curious onlookers were a beat behind. all they knew was that and charles and her little boy were no more. >> it's just devastating. i was in shock. especially about the little boy. >> yeah. >> i still didn't know what had happened really. >> it wasn't long ago, watching this violent, stern faces streaming in and out of that
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little house. that person couldn't help but put two and two together. >> it was very scary. i think the whole neighborhood was scared. >> right there, and that very neighborhood, police would find their suspect. >> coming up, >> they had recovered a knife -- >> quick work from investigators. two suspects, two confessions. >> if was for routine, we're going, we find her purse, we take our money, and then we leave. >> were they telling the truth? when dateline continues. when dateline continues. in my ozempic® tri-zone, i lowered my a1c, cv risk, and lost some weight. announcer: ozempic® provides powerful a1c reduction. in studies, the majority of people reached an a1c under 7 and maintained it. ozempic® lowers the risk of major cardiovascular events such as stroke, heart attack, or death in adults also with known heart disease. and you may lose weight. adults lost up to 14 pounds.
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rumor that spread around little crozet, virginia in 2003. pretty soon, everyone knew it was true. it was not any ordinary fire that robert davis witnessed out there. >> going out to the grocery store, or the gas stations, stuff like that. >> it was clear there was a murder? >> yes sir. >> anne charles and her three -year-old thomas were dead. horribly. and larry claytor, the forensic man got a better look at it than anybody. >> this was probably one of the more horrendous cases i had worked in my career. >> larry could not give investigators much to go on. a few small footprints in the snow out back. but forget dna. and the possibility of finding that was flushed away by fire hoses. >> then i got word from the medical examiners office, they had recovered a knife that was sticking in the woman's back >> what did you think when you heard that?
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>> i went back to my photographs sure enough, in the middle of the back was the knife. >> so someone stabbed her, but who? >> firefighters tipped police that a brother sister duo across the street, rocky and jessica fugett 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. they come through the hallway, people would just move out of the way, try not to be around them. >> kevin's friend, a shy and awkward robert seemed to be a favorite target. >> the used to pick on him all the time. they call them retarded, fat, ugly, stupid. >> robert said he tried to ignore it, but they knew his vulnerabilities. >> i tried to keep my distance when i could, and stay wherever we were, in close proximity to each other >> safer that way, said robert. at any case, the detectives paid a visit to the fugett's house, where they learned enough to march the pair down
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to police headquarters for questioning. rocky admitted he was there, to rob the place. >> i was in the house, i started downstairs, jessica was there, i was supposed to just watch. >> detective phil giles interviewed jessica. >> she eventually acknowledged that, she tried to say it was somebody else first, and then at some point, she 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 was all that was supposed to happen. >> then, rocky went way off script, said jessica. tied her to a bed with duct tape, and turned it into murder. >> broke in. >> okay >> who cut ann's throat? >> rocky. >> who stabbed her in the back? >> rocky. >> okay. >> jessica told detective giles, the murder weapons were a kitchen knife and a metal rod for bludgeoning, which they
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stashed in a hole outside of her house. >> she said they could not find it without her, we drove her out there, and we walked the entire path until we got to the hole. she said, that is it right there. lo and behold, we had some evidence folks with, us and those items where there >> what was that like? >> i mean, only those involved would know these details, where the instruments were used to kill someone. >> so that was that they had their story and their corporate. except, there was one more very significant detail, offered up by both jessica and rocky. something the towns rumor mill failed to catch. by the time kevin and robert went out for the evening, a couple of days later -- >> we went bowling. we went out to eat, just had a grand old time. >> but that time, it was after midnight. time to go home, to bed. >> sitting in the parking lot, talking, just laughing. and all of the sudden, multiple police cars pulled up.
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they get out, guns drawn. they get out the vehicle first, they get me walking backwards, with my hands up. >> then, through all of the terror and confusion, it dawned on kevin marsh. it was not him they had come for. >> so then i see them getting robert out, kicking him down, knocking him to the ground, ramming his face into the asphalt, putting him in handcuffs. >> the story that the fugett's told the police? they had accomplices when they murdered ann charles. one of them was robert davis. >> coming up -- >> i was scared, i was shook. >> now it will be robert davis 's turn in the interrogation room. >> why don't you tell me about what happened last night? >> when dateline continues.
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>> by all accounts, including his own, robert davis was a mama's boy, because of his childlike ways, perhaps for his learning disability, maybe? >> he is easy to play, he is like me, he has a kind heart, he is gullible. >> robert seemed to need his mother sandy to protect them from the big bad world, while he took care of her when she was attacked by a chronic illness. and the -- which tends to slur her speech. >> he's a teddy bear, he always wanted to grow up and be in health care, a nurse like i was. >> robert did get into trouble once over a petty fast. he's 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 knew his mother for years. robert looked up to randy, trusted him. so an officer snead, now a detective with the albemarle county police came looking for him after the fire, sandy told him, without hesitation where he could find her son. >> i said is robert in trouble? >> he said he was in serious trouble. >> but sandy had no how serious. -- >> kind of a friend? >> yes, because i had known him for so long. >> why don't you tell me, robert took place that night? you tell me your story of what happened... >> i was at my house, man >> at first, robert swore that he was innocent. but, six hours later, he had confessed to murder.
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>> you stabbed her, didn't you? >> one, one or two times. >> everything you've told me is true, correct? >> true. >> everything that you have done, and been part of it 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 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 could not believe it. >> he was always polite, amicable and, but i knew robert was a follower. and, i still could not believe that robert was involved. >> and yet, the boys said it himself. >> why would he confessed to something he did not do? >> roberts mother could not
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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 would expect an accused murderer might say. he did not do it. he did not stab anybody. he was not even there. he only confessed, he said, because he was so scared. >> if you push hard enough to find out, whether or not he was actually telling you the truth? >> i take with the client tells me. i do an independent evaluation, based on what i learned. >> so, he watched the tape of robert confession, and it did not 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?
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>> the fugett siblings, as the kids at school and the neighborhood knew, bullied robert mercilessly. he was terrified of them. surely, he would not help them murder a neighbor? 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 new from long experience that any jury hearing rocky's testimony at roberts confession would certainly convict. robert would probably get a life sentence with no parole. roberts only chance of ever getting out of prison was to agree to something called an alfred plea. >> when we told robert that if you plead guilty under on alfred plea, you admit that there is sufficient evidence to prove your guilt, but you do not admit that you are guilty. >> the man accepting a 23 year prison sentence. it also money never filed an appeal.
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>> 37 years of practice, it is the hardest decision that i have made, to strongly recommend a client to take a plea for something he did not do. >> but at least it was not life. u.s. sentenced to 20, and would be free in his early forties. >> i was standing in front of that judge, saying i was -- a crime. and i was praying that one day, hopefully, the truth will come out that i was not there. >> the fugett's avoided the death penalty, but they got what amounted to life without parole. and steve rosenfield faithfully drove out to meet 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 from which he was sentenced. >> but then, two years after robert went to prison,
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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 could 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 i have ever seen. >> that interrogation would soon be the key to the case. >> i can't lie about the evidence. >> he was lying about lies. >> when dateline continues. ugh-stipated... feeling weighed down by a backedup gut" miralax is different. it works naturally with the water in your body to unblock your gut. your gut. and your mood will follow.
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every search you make, every click you take, every move you make, every step you take, i'll be watching you. the internet doesn't have to be duckduckgo is a free all in one privacy app with a built in search engine, web browser, one click data clearing and more stop companies like google from watching you, by downloading the app today. hi, officials confirm a third duckduckgo: privacy, simplified. officers dead following a shoot out in eastern kentucky. jacob chapin succumb to his injuries on friday. police were executing a search warrant on thursday when the, suspect opened fire, striking
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chief ins and other officers. that suspect is in police custody. thousands of flights have been delayed or canceled as a record number of americans fly for the 4th of july holiday. tsa says nearly two and a half million from friday. that's a new pandemic record. now, back to dateline. back to dateline. >> attorney steve rosen field was in for a big surprise when he arrived at rocky few gets prison. >> it was shocking. >> it certainly was. rocky wanted to sign a sworn affidavit, saying robert david 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, rockies admission wasn't enough to undo roberts confession. and then, seven years into
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roberts prison sentence, rosen field answered a phone call. there was she was. laura nirider, the director of the center of wrongful convictions and northwestern university school of law. she's a leading expert and false confession by young people. -- she heard about robbers case and offered to help. and help us understand what's happened to robert. as we watch the interrogation unfold. >> this is one of the most intense interrogations i've ever seen. >> you have the right to remain silent. anything you say in will can be will against you. >> you've got these officers, very close to robert, who's a big guy, pushing into that corner, increasing the pressure without touching him. >> randy -- the man robert has long trusted because the interview at 2 am, 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.
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>> i am. >> robert insist that he's innocent. >> i had nothing to do with this. i swear to god. >> nine times, robert asked for a polygraph. >> i will take a polygraph test right now. i'm being honest. i will take a polygraph test. i have said that how many times? officers need, i was not there. i'll take a polygraph test right now to prove that i was not there. >> when you've got somebody in the interrogation room, who offers take a polygraph, that's a strong sign of innocence that should not be disregarded. >> we know you were in the house, okay? >> -- ups the ante. >> i was never near the house. >> they had evidence, he says. >> we know you were in the house. we've got evidence that's going to prove you in the house. >> they don't, by the way, have any evidence of that. though, it is illegal for police to lie in an interrogation. >> i want to see this evidence. >> you will. >> just after 3 am, robert as for his medicine, he had strep throat, remember? he's also asthmatic. >> i need to take my third dose. i have not taken it. >> i will give you panelists in line once we get it. you work with you all, work
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with you. >> robert's been awake for nearly 20 hours. >> i'm tired. i want to go. i want to call my mom. tell her that i love her. i'm sorry for all the pain that never put it through. i had nothing -- i had nothing to do with this. >> more than a dozen times, he, says i'm tired and need sleep. several times, he tries to sleep on the cold floor. >> at 5:17 am, for no explain reason, they attach shackles to robbers angles. >> come on, man. that's too tight for me. >> more than 40 hours into the interrogation, and the speed tells -- more bad news. overwhelming evidence of robert's guilt. >> i don't need it. i've got evidence out that as. dust is made of mostly humans dead skin. that can be picked up. that dna -- i'm not going to be able to keep you from boris, robert. if you don't talk to me, i can't keep you from the worst. >> i wasn't there.
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>> -- you were. you were there! that evidence shows you were there. i can lie about the evidence. >> not only was that false, there was no dna found in this case. lobster then goes on to say, i can't lie to you about this, robert. in fact, he's lying about ing. >> officer snead tells robert, he faces what's new calls, the ultimate punishment. he also says, falsely, that he's been talking to robbers mother on the phone. >> 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. you're not even helping me help you. i can do no more. >> what was going on in there? >> there, you see the police officer suggesting to robert, he's gonna face death. you also see the officer, very cleverly, using robbers relationship with his mother. >> that's when robert resolve begins to weaken. >> what can i say that i did to get me out of this? >> just before 7 am, five hours
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in, robert begins to bargain. >> how many years is going to be, if i was just on the porch? >> how many years will be if you just on the porch? robert, when -- >> will i go home? >> when will i go home today? when i go hom>> i can't promise. you work with me, and i'll do everything i can to make sure your mom, and we get you home. >> 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. once i heard something, i got scared, i freaked in iran. >> robert, sitting here and trying to tell me -- and hard for me -- to accept a place, it's ridiculous. >> snead lies the robert again. this time, about one of the murder weapons. >> there's an item that you touched. that had left some particles on
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it. that did some damage to somebody. why was that object, rod burt? >> i think it was a day. >> it was a. bat >> a baseball bat. >> all right, some type of -- >> clubbing device. >> need knows the weapon was a metal rod. >> and then i had her two times. because they said, if i didn't -- wait a minute >> about somebody else clipping robert. i've got someone else doing that act. >> robert has it wrong. >> hit around the head of this mackay thing. >> just call already announced -- you did another act. you know with that act is. and we know. that's the thing that has something on it, that's yours. >> why would that be? >> i'm not gonna tell you. >> so, again, robert starts guessing. >> i didn't rate nobody. >> no. >> i didn't kill the baby. . i'm not saying that. >> i'm not saying that you
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whipped anybody. >> i didn't cut nobody. >> i don't say you do. >> i didn't do nobody. >> and in saint-jean nobody. >> robert, i want to come straight out and tell you what i'm getting it. since jonathan me. you stabbed that woman. i >> stabbed. are >> you stabbed her, didn't you? >> one -- one or two times. >> then, snead asked robert, where? >> we're about somebody? >> it was in the middle. >> and again sneaker exum. >> you had a knife in your hand, all right? and prior to stabbing, stabbing her in the back, you cut her. >> it was essentially the police's convention, now roberts. >> do you think by me telling you this is gonna giving home tonight? >> tonight? >> today? >> i doubt it. >> well then why am i lying about all this to, to so i can go home? >> you're not lying. >> i am lying to you. i'm lying to forefront, full frontier face. i am lying to you. >> i'm lying to you, just so i can go home. which is exactly what juveniles
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who are falsely confessed to say was a motivating factor for falsely confessing. >> but by 8 am, six hours after the invitation began, randy snead had his convention. >> but you said tonight, is that true and accurate statement? >> yes. >> okay. >> one rosen feel delivered a clemency petition to virginia governor, nirider added volumes of evidence and support. then, as we waited for an answer, >> i have nowhere, jessica sent, dear mr. rosen feel letter, emitting to the throat cutting, stab wounds to the back and was absolutely adamant that robert had nothing to do with it, whatsoever. >> so, jessica's affidavit was sent out to the governor to. everybody waited. and waited. then, on the governor's very last day in office, more than
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nine years into roberts sentence, the decision denied. rosen feel devastated joked to the person so robert. >> our burden i hugged and cried. it probably is about the most potent full part of this process. >> robbers 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 wicked france? >> coming up, the police detective in robbers corner. when dateline continues. e continues.
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virginia. robert davis's home, this and other places like this, for something like, 40% of his life. every moment of those years, dictated by one, long night with officer randi snead, at the end of it, roberts edwards he could not take back. >> you stabbed that woman >> i stabbed her >> you stabbed, or didn't? you >> won, one or two times. >> most people would, say i would never, ever in 1 million years confess. >> or how could he be so stupid, and not know, you know? like, i was young. naive. i was scared. >> robert is of course, not alone. there are people like him in
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situations just like his, in jails all around the country, who confessed as teenagers to primes that they maybe did not 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 is probable that robert still would be 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 interviewed for very long? close to is gyro >> the interview, as it is on the recording would not be legal in the uk. but evidence would not be admitted in a trial. >> this is andy griffith, 30 years as a detective in the uk 's police department, recognized for is investigative interviews. when griffiths was a rookie,
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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? >> change 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. >> 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 applied in every region of the country. strict rules were put in place for suspect interviews, all interviews and serious cases, video recording. >> there are two cameras out there. one gives a head and shoulders shot of the interviewee, the
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idea behind that is that 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 is in the room is shown in the picture. it is about showing exactly what happened. >> and this was key. no more lying. in america, it is legal for cops july two suspects. not here. >> for example, could you go into this interview and say, i had a certain specific piece of evidence that tells me you are guilty, if you don't have that evidence? >> no, absolutely not. >> can you talk to a suspect for as long as you want to? >> only for two hours at a time can we recognize breaks, mealtimes, prayer times and nighttime. >> and some are a little challenged, like robert.
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>> they are entitled with the law to what is called an appropriate -- that might be a parent or a social worker. they are entitled to that, as well as their legal representative. >> but when the interrogation rules were changed? veteran officers were not happy. they resisted. detective trevor remembers it well. >> people thought this was a draconian piece of legislation that would prevent us from other detecting anything ever again >> you would never solve a crime anymore? >> we would never solve a crime anymore it would tie our hands. >> detection rates in respect to homicide in the uk are very high. they are up in the 90% mark. >> and, along the way, said the detective, confessions of hallmark case servings in the u.s. became much less important here in britain. >> we would not prosecute someone solely on a confession. so somebody did make a confession, we would try to corroborate what they say >> but isn't a confession the strongest evidence you can get? >> not always.
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>> what is wrong with it? >> what confessions tended to do, if they shape a confirmation bias, people look for supporting evidence just to support what is being said, it because the confession exists. >> so we asked the detective to watch with us, robert davis's interrogation. >> and >> what this guy's problem was, he was arrested last what they are saying is we gospel believe the people who are arrested first, so you just need to confirm what we know. and that's clearly not a good approach to investigating. >> you obviously think that i'm lying, i swear to you that i'm not. i'm ready to go to sleep. so take me, because i did not do nothing. >> the time of day of the interview, at the length of the interview, the use of -- halfway through the interview, the clear requests for medication, sleep at various points in the interview, they are all red flags >> when you look at the whole thing as you did, you sat back and thought afterwards -- >> the lifeline of any account is reliability. and the way that this is done, is you can't vouch for
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reliability >> we had asked for its opinion, and he gave it to us. roberts confession was not believable. what we did not expect was what happened a few months later, when this british detective spoke to steve rosenfield, and offered to write to virginia's governor, adding his support to robert davis's clemency petition. the 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. it works naturally with the water in your body to unblock your gut. your gut. and your mood will follow. it's started. somewhere between a cuddle and a struggle, it's...the side hug. tween milestones like this may start at age 9.
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convicted on a false confession, advocates were adamant that would happen to robert davis. then, newfound hope. the you governor was taking office. would he consider the case? or, was the young men so many believed incidents and destin to spend another decade in jail? here's keith morrison with the conclusion of the interrogation. >> i've never been emotional and a presentation, as i feel in this case, because i've grown very close with robert. >> years, steve rosenberg made it -- illegal conferences, to anybody
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who would listen. robert remained right where he was, in prison. during those same years, we asked repeatedly for an interview with randy snead, the officer who took roberts confession. but, as close as we got was -- county police chief, colonel steve sellers, since retired. he wasn't in office when snead was detective, but we've talked to him. what's your sense of how he feels? >> i think he acted in his best interest. i think there wasn't malice in his actions. i think he had a very strong relationship with robert davis. >> but, this was interesting. chief sellers did not supports needs interrogations. not at all. >> i would say this, i believe the confession is an unreliable confession. >> what's more, the chief updated police methods when he took over. helping to prevent the kind of interrogation that ended up in the confession.
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>> as you look at it, what are things that would not be done? >> using terms like the ultimate punishment, length of the interview. those kind of things would be clearly not done today. >> cold comfort from robert davis, who by 2014, had been president, going on 11 years. a decade plus to go. less, there was a new governor. rosen field renewed his appeal for clemency. though, he was well aware that a tiny percentage of these petitions are evergrande. has month after months won by, it was unclear why, if anything, was happening. >> what's disturbing about the clemency process is that it secretive. what's >> rosenfeld didn't know is that this time, it was different. governor, in fact, ordered a new investigation. just before christmas, 2015, we
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were there when the call came from the governor's office. >> hey, carl, it's steve. >> there was. finally, the words he had been hoping to hear, year after year after year. robert davis was about to be set free. >> i'm elated, just in time for the holidays. today's robert's mother's birthday. >> sandy, it's steve. set another play for tonight's dinner. i'm going up to pick robert up. >> oh my god! >> i think this will be the last time i oversee this prison. >> at last, the final drive to roberts prison with the news that both had dreamed up for all those years. >> hello. >> how are you feeling? >> i'm elated. words can't describe it. words cannot describe it, i'm just so happy. if it wasn't for the man fighting for me right there, i
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wouldn't be out right now. this is just overwhelming right now. i mean it's out of these fences, man! hello. i'm just getting ready to pull out. it's unreal, mom! as long as this isn't a dream, i'm leaving right now. >> and that very night, robert was together again with his mother, his brother and freedom. >> robert! [laughs] it's you! this is my boy! he's home! >> how does it feel? >> it feels great. >> a few weeks later, we came to see robert, here at his new
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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. >> how does it feel? >> if it was great. i haven't stopped smiling since i've come home. [laughs] >> i can tell. would you planning to do with your life? >> get a job and thrive. i've got this opportunity and i don't want to squander it. that's a nice looking club. >> he's got a job, working at a neighborhood deli. and he lives under the protective eye of the man who never stop trying to prove his innocence, and who hasn't stopped yet. roberts 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 reconsideration toward an absolute pardon, which would erase and expunged his
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conviction. >> on december 16, 2016, governor mcauliffe did just that. granting robert davis a full pardon. -- robert's mother, sandy, died in a car crash. she had said her great's joy was seeing her son exonerated. it would take the state two years, but virginia lawmakers awarded davis nearly $600,000 in compensation for his wrongful conviction. laura nirider believes there are untold others, now languishing in american prison, who confessed under duress to something they didn't do. >> slowly, these stories are becoming to make headlines. now, we see, eyes are beginning to open, questions are beginning to be asked around the country. that is what happened in robert davis's case. >> when i do your life made a hell of a difference, didn't it? >> yeah. >> have you ever run into randi's need? >> if i was to see him walk down the street, i probably
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just keep walking because i don't really have anything to say to him, except, i told you so. i told you that i was innocent. >> so he was. so he is. >> that's all for this episode of dateline. i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. thanks for watching. >> i'm craig melvin >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is dateline. ♪ ♪ ♪ a sprawling southern family farm with a pair of churchgoing grandparents at its heart. >> they are definitely the most loving individuals i've ever met in my life. >> there was no way it was supposed to end like this. >> she took me about a hand and said diane and charlie have been murdered.


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