Washington and Lee University School of Law Logo

Washington and Lee University School of Law

Make Each Year Count Washington and Lee University School of Law

scholarly commons at w&l law

False Confessions Symposium

FalseConfessionPoster.jpgJanuary 30 and 31, 2014
Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall

This symposium will examine the story of the Central Park Five, the Norfolk Four, and other cases involving false confessions. Speakers include Steve Drizin, a leading researcher in the field; Steve Northup, lawyer from Troutman Sanders who represented Erick Wilson of the Norfolk Four; Gerald Zerkin, a Federal Public Defender who represented Earl Washington; Steve Rosenfeld, who represents another Norfolk Four defendant, and interrogation expert James Trainum.

Sponsored by Washington and Lee University Law School, the Frances Lewis Law Center, and these Washington and Lee organizations: The Innocence Project, CONTACT, the Student Bar Association, the Black Law Students Association, the Federalist Society, the Criminal Justice Clinic, the National Lawyers Guild, and The Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice.

CLE Credit Available (For those in attendance only. Not available for online viewers.)

Symposium Materials Here

Live Web Stream and Video Archive: CLICK HERE


Thursday Evening, 7 p.m.

Showing of the Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns PBS documentary The Central Park Five, which tells the story of how five young men came to be charged with one of the most horrific and notorious crimes in New York City history – the brutal beating and rape of a young woman jogger in Central Park.  All confessed.  All were convicted.  All spent many years in prison until the actual perpetrator confessed.  All were exonerated.

One of those men, Raymond Santana, along with Professor Steven Drizin, a leading expert in the field of false confessions, will share thoughts about the experience after the showing.

Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Four False Confessions and How They Happened

9am – 10:30am

Professor Drizin presents a summary of  his research on false confessions cases and recounts the Central Park Five case.  Steve Northup recounts the Norfolk Four case. Brandon Garrett presents his research on wrongful convictions and false confessions.

Raymond Santana and Eric Wilson describe their interrogations. Excerpts from confessions played.

10:30am – 10:45am


10:45 – 12:00pm

Gerald Zerkin recounts the Virginia case of Earl Washington, convicted of rape and murder and sent to death row based on a false confession, now exonerated.
Steven Rosenfield, Laura Nirider, and Jeffrey Aaron recount the Virginia case of Robert Davis who falsely confessed to the murder of a mother and her child, sentenced to 23 years and now waiting clemency.

12:00pm – 1pm

Lunch break

Police Interrogation - The Reid Technique

1pm –  2:45pm

James Trainum and Steven Drizin describe the Reid technique of interrogation.

Jonathan Shapiro describes defense of Fairfax County child sex-abuse case based on false confession, with excepts of confession played and commentary by James Trainum, Steven Drizin and Jonathan Shapiro.

Steven Drizin, Jonathan Shapiro, Steven Rosenfield, Gerald Zerkin and Stephen Northup discuss preparing the case for attacking a false confession.

2:45pm – 3pm


The Fight for Exoneration - Law and Politics

3pm – 4pm

Panel discussion - Steven Rosenfield, Stephen Northup, Steven Drizin, Jeffrey Aaron and Gerald Zerkin describe the fight for exoneration in their cases, including the law and the politics.
4 - 4:30pm

Question and Answer, and closing comments


Stephen A. Northup
Pro Bono Partner (retired), Troutman Sanders, LLP, Richmond, Virginia,
Executive Director, Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty,
Counsel to Eric Wilson, defendant in the “Norfolk Four” case.

Eric Wilson
Defendant in “Norfolk Four” case.

Brandon Garrett
Roy L and Rosamund Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law
University of Virginia School of Law
Researcher on Wrongful Convictions and False Confessions

Jeffrey Aaron
Clinical & Forensic Psychologist
Director, Commonwealth Center for Children & Adolescents
Expert witness in confession evaluation cases, including Robert Davis

Laura Nirider
Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Northeastern University Law School
Project Co-Director, Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth
Expert in juvenile interrogations and confessions

James Trainum
Retired District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department Detective,
Expert on interrogation techniques and false confessions.

Steven A. Drizin
Clinical Professor of Law, Northwestern University Law School,
Associate Director, Bluhm Legal Clinic,
Director, Center on Wrongful Convictions,
National authority on false confessions

Raymond Santana
Exonerated defendant in “Central Park Five” case.

Steven D. Rosenfield
Attorney, Charlottesville, Virginia,
Counsel to Robert Davis, innocent man convicted of murder based on false confession, pending clemency in Virginia.

Gerald Zerkin
Capital Resource Counsel, Federal Defender Office for the District of Oregon,
Counsel to Earl Washington, exonerated Virginia death row inmate who confessed to rape and murder.

Jonathan Shapiro
Visiting Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University Law School
Trial counsel to false confession acquittee