No one would ever confess to a crime they didn’t commit! I certainly wouldn’t!

That phrase has been repeated endlessly by people who hear about false confession conviction cases that have been overturned.  I admit, the temptation to believe a confession is logical. It is utterly counter-intuitive to think someone would, or could, confess to something they didn’t do.  But the fact is that it happens every day and, no, you really don’t know what you would do if faced with the same circumstances of police pressure and manipulation.

Eddie Gill had serious cognitive limits from a young age. With an IQ of 70, he dropped out of school in 9th grade, and is unable to read or write.  In short, he is easily manipulated.  But Eddie’s most telling characteristic was that he was an eighteen-year-old black male who lived in a poor, inner city neighborhood.  He was also, as they say, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“On Saturday, February 2nd, 2013,” 

Eddie Gill went with his sister and his girlfriend to the Futuristic nightclub on Milwaukee’s south side. It was to be the club’s last night of operation, as it had been ordered closed due to liquor license violations.  The club was packed, and at closing time, a crowd of about 60 people spilled into the street.  Suddenly, a car pulled around from a side street and stopped in front of the crowd. Two hooded figures appeared from the car with guns drawn, and pointed them at Jordin Crawley and his friend, who were  standing in front of the nightclub.  The individuals in the car opened fire, releasing six shots toward their target. Crawley was killed, and his friend next to him was injured.

“The act was quite clearly a targeted assassination” 

At the time the shooting occurred, Eddie was at a gas station across the street talking with a friend.  As he was crossing the street to return to those gathered outside the club, the shots rang out. Eddie ran, as did the entire crowd. The police arrived moments later and spent most of the night interviewing witnesses but ended up with no leads whatsoever.

Nine days later, a Milwaukee Police Detective contacted Eddie’s mom, and requested to speak with her son in his capacity as a witness to the shooting.  Someone had identified Eddie in surveillance video from the gas station the night of the incident.  Eddie’s mother agreed, and on February 14th, 2013 at 6:00 PM, Eddie’s sister dropped him off at the Milwaukee Police Administration Building in downtown Milwaukee.

“Eddie would be in custody for the next 13 months.” 

Eddie’s timeline in Police custody and his confession played out as follows:

  • 2/12/13 9:00 PM

    Eddie requests a polygraph while being taken to cell

  • 2/13/13 7:00 AM

    Eddie given Polygraph by Detective James Hensley over four hours; Eddie is scored as “failing”

  • 2/13/13 2:30 PM

    Eddie is interrogated for five hours by two new detectives whom he had never met

  • 2/13/13 – 2/14/13

    Eddie spends his second consecutive night in jail sleeping on a concrete slab, without being given clean clothes

  • 2/14/13 – 7:17 AM to 12:01 PM

    For 4 hours, 44 mins, detectives again interview Eddie. This time, Eddie confesses to the murder of Mr. Crawley

“Eddie was quickly charged with 1st Degree Reckless Homicide and assigned a public defender” 

In July, 2013, I agreed to take over Eddie’s defense.  Having read and heard many, many stories about false confessions, I knew that they were a real phenomenon.

After meeting Eddie, it immediately became clear to me that he had made a false confession and was 100% innocent of this crime.

Over the next 7 months, I worked closely with my legal team, including several false confession experts, in order to prove as conclusively as possible that Eddie had been manipulated by the police into confessing.

In March of 2014, after several contentious hearings on the eve of trial, a very courageous judge dismissed the murder charge against Eddie, citing obvious police misconduct

Lessons from the Eddie Gill case: 

Police are trained to extract confessions -

NOT to extract the truth. Most law enforcement agencies are concerned simply with clearing cases

Anyone would be vulnerable to the pressures Eddie faced

Eddie was easily manipulated, but his case could happen to anyone.

The poor are often uniquely and unfairly targeted in the criminal justice system

Law enforcement agencies do not see any fault in manipulating suspects into confessing

The Fifth Amendment exists for a reason - use it!

If you, or someone you know, is facing intense questioning by law enforcement,