False Confessions: An Exonoree’s Perspective

Posted on November 15th, 2012

During the 2012 TLR Symposium held on November 9, 2012, Byron Halsey presented the story of how he was coerced into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit. He was convicted of the crime and remained in prison for almost twenty years before being exonerated.

In 1985, Halsey was questioned about the murder of his girlfriend’s two young children, with whom he lived. During the interrogation, investigators created a statement—while being watched by one of the prosecutors—which falsely described Halsey’s involvement. Halsey remembered feeling like he was being asked the same questions over and over again. After thirty hours of interrogation, Halsey had become tired and scared. He signed the statement confessing to the murders, believing he would “fight another day.”

The statement was used as the key evidence against Halsey in the murder trial leading to his conviction. Several witnesses also testified against him, indicating his involvement. At the advice of his counsel, Halsey did not testify in his defense.

After his conviction, Halsey had to write “thousands” of letters just to find someone to advocate on his behalf. The Innocence Project eventually took his case. In 2006, DNA testing proved that Halsey was innocent and that Clifton Hall, who had testified against Mr. Halsey at trial, was the actual murderer. Halsey remained in prison until July of 2007, when he was finally declared innocent and released.

Because he is currently involved in a civil suit, Halsey could not discuss particular details about his experience but stressed that he did not believe the system itself was flawed. Instead, he believed that its rules were poorly executed by the people in it. He urged the audience to be critical if ever faced with a similar situation and to “ask questions.”

Whitney West Robson
Temple University School of Law, J.D. Candidate 2013