I hope to finish catching up on holiday news coverage by the end of the day. On December 28, the Texas Tribune reported, "Inmate's Case Adds to Debate on Recorded Interrogations." It was written by Maurice Chammah, and was also printed in the Texas edition of the New York Times.
Max Soffar slurred his words in 1980 as he confessed to shooting two teenagers while robbing a Houston bowling alley, a confession that can be heard over the hisses and crackles of an audiotape. Only two hours of at least 26 hours of questioning over three days were recorded, according to the police officers who were at the interrogation.
Three decades and two trials later, Mr. Soffar, 57, maintains that he never committed the crimes — he says he confessed to shooting the two teenagers while trying to implicate someone else in the shootings at the bowling alley, in which three people were killed and another was injured. But Mr. Soffar also says he only has faint memories of the interrogation.
The investigators “took full advantage of someone who had no idea of the danger of the situation,” Mr. Soffar said recently from death row.
Prosecutors said that the evidence against Mr. Soffar was solid.
Mr. Soffar’s lawyers say his case highlights a broader debate about false confessions, and as they ask the United States Supreme Court to look at the case, Texas lawmakers are renewing a push to require police officers to record interviews in cases of violent crime.
Richard A. Leo, who teaches at the University of San Francisco School of Law and has written several books on police interrogation procedures, analyzed Mr. Soffar’s tape and determined that officers in the case used verbal techniques like accusation, forceful pressure, repetition and confrontation.
All of these, Dr. Leo wrote in an affidavit, “create a risk of eliciting false confessions when misapplied to the innocent.” Mr. Soffar, sleep-deprived and coming down from drug use, was particularly susceptible, Dr. Leo said.
Earlier coverage of Max Soffar's long and tangled case is also available.