Detective Anthony Green of the D.C. police force obtained a false confession from Donel Vaughn to being the triggerman in a shooting in SouthEast D.C. which left two women wounded and Vaughn facing charges of assault with intent to kill. How did Detective Green get Vaughn to confess to something he didn't do? The answer is there for all to see on Donel's videotaped interrogation, a practice only recently adopted by the DC police. On the tape, recently aired on Fox News, Green engages in the following tactics:
1) he told Vaughn his grandmother had died from a heart attack she suffered when police came to search her apartment looking for evidence against Vaughn;
2) he lied and said that Vaughn's fingerprints were on the gun;
3) he could get life in prison for stealing the car (lie)
4) the FBI was on the case (another lie) and the police chief wanted answers;
Green's actions have been defended by Asst Police Chief Winston Robinson who told FOX News that Green's actions were perfectly legal. As long as Green did not promise a lighter sentence or the dropping of charges, everything is fair game. Let's hope the trial court does not accept this reasoning -- a lie about expungement sounds like a promise of leniency to these ears and a lie about a life sentence is a threat of harm. This confession should be tossed and Green should be disciplined. The DC Police Department also needs to get some training on how to interrogate on videotape -- now -- before they continue to use tactics that are a recipe for involuntary and false confessions.
Green's actions are also abhorrent because we now know that he fed "false facts" to Vaughn to get him to falsely confess. "False facts" occur when an investigator has a theory about a case which later turns out to be false. This theory leads the detective to pressure a suspect to give a confession that fits the theory. When other evidence proves the theory to be false, the investigator is busted. In the shooting, eyewitnesses told police that the shooter was the driver. Green, who thought that police told him that Vaughn was the driver, pressured Vaughn to admit to being the driver and then the shooter. The only problem -- Green got it wrong. Police officers actually told Green that Vaughn was the last to bale out of the car --from the back seat, not the front seat. Not only was Vaughn's confession coerced, it was false, at least with respect to critical information that could lead to an acquittal on the specific intent crime of assault with intent to kill.