He is guilty, because he said he did it! 
He is guilty because he said “Okay, I did it”. That is the premise that the prosecution proceeded forward with when building the case against Erick Westervelt.

During the trial, two Town of Bethlehem Police Detectives were questioned by Albany County ADA David Rossi, about the time period from when Erick halted the polygraph test and wrote a "confession". Here is their direct testimony.

Detective Charles Rudolph

Q. All right. And when you went back in the room to speak to Erick, tell the jury what happened.

A. We -- Detective Bowdish went in before me, pulled up a chair right next to Erick. Their knees were almost touching each other. They were that close. I stood behind Detective Bowdish and at that time Detective Bowdish said, if you want, now is a good time to get it off your chest.

Q. All right. And how did Erick respond to that?

A. He sunk back in his chair, let out a gasp of air and said, okay, I did it.

Detective Christopher Bowdish

Q. Tell the jury what happened when you went back into the room to talk to Erick.

A. At this point we explained to him that it would, he would be better off at this point if he told his side of the story, that the investigation was going to continue, and we felt as though we would like to hear his side of the story. At this point I saw him relax somewhat and he started telling us, yes, I did it.

Westervelt testified in his own defense at trial in regards to the exact same time period as above. He offers a much different scenario of what he says really took place. Here is his direct trial testimony when questioned by defense attorney Mark Sacco.

Erick Westervelt

Q. So at this point, what happened then?

A At that point I said, this is bullshit, you know, you are just telling me, you are going to tell me I'm lying no matter what. And at that point I said, I'm done with this, get this off of me. I started pulling at the apparatuses, you know, the stuff he put on the fingers. And I told him that I wanted a lawyer. And at that point he started saying, you are stopping the test because you are lying, you are a liar. And I kept saying, I want my lawyer, over and over again. And he stood there and he basically and he did nothing until he left. Then he went and got the detectives.

Q. How many times did you tell him, if you remember, you wanted a lawyer?

A. I told him at least four times.

Q. Did he take you to see a lawyer?

A. No, he did not.

Q. Did he bring a lawyer up to you?

A. No, he did not.

Q. What happened next, Erick?

A. I was sitting in that room for about a minute or so and then the Bethlehem detectives came in.

Q. What happened then?

A. They basically came in and I told them that I wanted a lawyer right now, over and over again, and I said it about seven or eight times, and they didn't do any-thing. They sat there. One stood. And they didn't say anything.

Q. Where were you?

A. I was sitting in the polygraph chair at that point.

Q. Then what happened?

A. Then they brought me into the next room, which was right next door to it and they began interrogating me again.

Q. Back up to the polygraph. Describe the room for me.

A. It was a very small room. It was about maybe 6, 7 feet by 10 or 11 feet, no windows, you know, there was a desk with the machine and a couple of chairs.

Q. How long were you in there with the two detectives initially?

A. In?

Q. In the polygraph room.

A. With the two detectives?

Q. Yes.

A. Maybe two to three minutes.

Q. And what happened during that two to three minutes?

A. I was demanding a lawyer.

Q. Did you talk to them?

A. No.

Q. Why didn’t you run?

A. Because I had nowhere to go.

Q. What could you have done at that moment?

A. At that moment, the only thing I could have done was keep cooperating with these people.

Q. Well, I’m not saying, my question is, what physically, what could you have done?

A. Nothing.

Q. What did you do next?

A. I basically listened to the same stuff they were saying the day before.

Q. What was that?

A. That Tim was accusing me of starting the fight with him, that it was no big deal, that, you know, everything, you know, wasn't that big of a problem at all, and that I had a right to do it, all this kind of, all the same things that they were saying the first day.

Q. Did you answer their questions?

A. Yes, I answered the same questions with the same answers.

Q. And what did you tell them.

A. I told them that I had nothing to do with what happened to Tim.

Q. How did they respond to your answers?

A. They didn't like it. They basically progressed with their interrogation.

Q. If you remember, did you ask for a lawyer in that room or at that time?

A. At that point, after they denied my rights seven or eight times, I didn't think that they could possibly comply with anything I would say.

Q. What were your options?

A. My only option was to try to answer their questions as best as I could.

After Erick’s lengthy testimony regarding the writing of the “confession”, the questioning continued as follows.

Q. After you initialed by the numbers, what did you do next?

A. I got up to leave, because I was told that when I was finished, I could go. And at that point, Detective Bowdish stood up and put his hand on my shoulder s and pushed me down in the seat and told me I wasn’t going anywhere.

Q. What did you do when he pushed you down in the seat?

A. I told him that I wanted a lawyer now and he didn’t say anything. So I said it again. And he told me that a lawyer wasn’t going to help me now, that I had to cooperate with them, that was the only way.

Q. When did you see a lawyer?

A. I never saw a lawyer.


The defense attorneys were adamant about revealing to the jury that Erick was continually denied the aid of counsel and offered up a false statement because of the hopeless, intimidating circumstances that he was in. Since there were no recording devices in place, it was his word against the detectives.

For What It's Worth Department:

Erick was equally adamant to NCJ investigators that he never uttered those words; “Okay, I did it”

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The inconsistencies matter. 
Whenever a police officer interviews a possible suspect, the experienced officer knows enough to pay attention to any inconsistencies in a person’s story. That is what he is looking for. Anytime a story changes or does not fall into a logical sequence of events, the officer makes note of it and pursues a line of questioning that either confirms or disproves the authenticity of the storyline. That is what experienced interviewers do.

Now, if someone is telling a story that contains inconsistencies and/or doubtful situations, the experienced officer would become aware that the suspect is probably fabricating the story. Then the officer would engage in a more confrontational line of questioning in order to figure out why the suspect is being deceptive.

On the other hand, if the officer is inexperienced and believes the story that the suspect is offering and/or it fits nicely into his theory, the actual truth is in jeopardy. Whatever the reason for overlooking or not acknowledging the obvious inconsistencies places the whole case in jeopardy. You might think that this is not a likely scenario, right? Then you would be absolutely wrong.

Upon reviewing the video that took place a few hours after Westervelt made his “confession”, it became obvious that the detectives were still trying to figure out what actually happened. They continually asked questions that indicated that they realized that Erick’s story did not fit with what they knew from the crime scene. There is no indication on their part that they ever tried to dispute any of the statements that Erick made. They expressed amazement to many of his replies to the questions that they asked him. In other words, they were extremely condescending to almost everything that Erick was telling them. They knew that the video recorder was on and recording every word, but they did nothing to confront or dispute the inconsistencies or questionable explanations that he offered.

Westervelt was not aware of the gravity of the situation at that time and the dialogue supports that fact. His explanation for his responses was that he had only been implicated in a fight with the victim and he was telling the detectives what they wanted to hear so he could go home. He was never told that he was under arrest, although it was implied. The actual charges were never mentioned up until that point either.

That may be a bit hard to comprehend, but it is exactly what has happened to many people who have been in a similar situation. After extensive hours of being prevented from leaving, until they gave “their” side of the story, they offer any type of story that they know is false and figure on proving it later. When an inexperienced officer does not realize that the psychological pressure inflicted on an individual produces a false confession and does nothing to prove or disprove it, the case is on a disastrous course.

Westervelt’s predicament appears to have followed that unfortunate sequence. After all of the “valuable” information had been extracted, he was finally told about the actual severe condition of the victim. The direction of the investigation was irreversible for him at that point and the resulting stigma was fueled by inaccurate media accounts.

Several highly experienced police investigators have reviewed these transcripts for NCJ. They have indicated that the lack of implementing proven tactical interviewing techniques interfered with correctly evaluating the inconsistencies in Westervelt’s “confession” and oral statements.

Did the detectives realize or care about what they did to Erick Westervelt? The chances of them acknowledging such behavior is doubtful, even though they probably would not face any discipline; assuming they did it unintentionally.

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There is no (equal) Justice! 
“There is no justice” was the title for a previous blog entry on February 16th. That entry was in reference to people like Erick Westervelt being wrongly convicted of a crime and sentenced to many years of incarceration. The title was actually inspired by one of our more experienced associates who was referring to another form of justice that Westervelt did not receive; "equal justice" - hence “There is no (equal) justice”.

By this, we are referring to criminal justice systems being radically different depending upon the geographical location. Identical crimes that are investigated and prosecuted differently obviously result in a different outcome. For instance, if Westervelt's daily activities had been investigated by a more experienced police agency, it is quite possible that he would never have been arrested. We have pointed out in previous entries that his involvement appears to have been a rush to judgment and building a case to fit a theory rather than the obvious facts. In doing so, the justice was not equal to what it may have been in a different jurisdiction.

NCJ has been constantly monitoring many cases in New York that are examples of this type of injustice where people receive much different treatment for similar crimes. What it all comes down to is; it depends upon who you are and where you are. This is nothing new; it is age old; it happens in every country in the world. Nevertheless, it is a constant problem and there are many variables in the equation. The government expertise, regional attitudes and sentencing vary immensely, depending upon where a crime took place.

If the crime that Westervelt had been accused of took place in a jurisdiction where the police agency had extensive investigative experience in major crimes, the case would have been handled much differently. The last homicide case in that particular jurisdiction was 13 years prior (1991) and was an “open and shut” case. It was not investigated by any of the detectives that were involved in the Westervelt case in 2004. In other words, this was the detectives’ first homicide investigation. Their next homicide investigation came 4 weeks later and their procedure followed the same pattern in that case also. That was the Porco case and the same investigators, prosecutors and defense attorneys were working on both cases at the same time. There has not been a homicide in that jurisdiction since.

Any police agency in New York State can request the State Police for assistance in any aspect of an investigation regardless of the severity of a crime. Even though the investigating police department requested assistance from the New York State Police, their involvement was minimal. Since the State Police were not in control of the crime scene, the evidence preservation, gathering and continuity left much to be desired in regards to professional standards.

It was also unfortunate for Erick Westervelt that Dr. Michael Baden, the world famous forensic pathologist was not involved in the autopsy evaluation. He was and still is, the Director of the New York State Police Medicolegal Investigation Unit. This prestigious investigative unit is located at the nearby New York State Police Headquarters Laboratory and Forensics Investigation Center in Albany, NY. Although the attending forensic pathologist is extremely competent, it would have been advantageous to have Dr. Baden involved. His expertise may have provided a more in-depth explanation of the actual commission of the crime.

Erick Westervelt would be extremely fortunate to have an innocence group adopt his case. Maybe they might be able to arrange for some experts to become aware of how he has been victimized in the name of “Justice”.

Equal or not!

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Honesty, arrogance or hubris? 
These are three words that have distinctively different meanings.

Honesty relates to being forthright, forthcoming, moral and with humility. It is a condition of being honest; to be truthful, or in other words, to be true as far as the knowledge of the person making the statement.

Arrogance is defined as making undue claims in an overbearing manner; that species of pride which consists in exorbitant claims of rank, dignity, estimation, or power, or which exalts the worth or importance of the person to an undue degree; proud contempt of others; lordliness; haughtiness; self-assumption; presumption.

Hubris is a nastier form of arrogance. Much like taking arrogance to the highest level and is defined in its modern usage as overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of humility, not always with the lack of knowledge. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional pairing of hubris and nemesis in the Greek world. The proverb "pride goes before a fall" is thought to sum up the modern definition of hubris.

The reason we mention these words is because we are attempting to categorize the statements that the prosecutor of Erick’s case made to the press following the trial.

“I’m very pleased,” Assistant District Attorney David Rossi, who prosecuted the case, told The Enterprise after the verdict. “I think the Bethlehem Police Department did an outstanding job.”

“The jury didn’t accept that he was coerced into a confession,” Rossi said. He said he’s seen false-confession defenses before, but, “I’ve never seen it where the confession was written out and on video.”

The jury was most persuaded by Westervelt’s confession and the fact that he had a motive, Rossi said. The defense tried to convince the jury that Westervelt was interrogated in such a way that he made a false confession.

Of false confessions, Rossi asked, “Don’t...suspects ever lie just to lie?”

The Enterprise this week asked Assistant District Attorney David Rossi, who prosecuted, about DNA evidence in the Westervelt case. He said there was no DNA but experts from a lab said nothing was unusual with that. Rossi also said that Westervelt was familiar with forensic evidence and could hide things.

Rossi told The Enterprise this week that the toy hatchet from Lake George was not the murder weapon, but that it is similar to the hatchet they believe was used. And, he said, Westervelt confessed to using a similar hatchet.

After reviewing all of the known facts of this case, there are definite issues regarding the validity of these statements.

Therefore, is the prosecutor being honest, arrogant or hubristic?

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False confessions can sway a jury! 
We suspected early in our analysis why the Jury in the Westervelt trial disregarded or put little emphasis on the factual circumstances of the case. That in itself is an interesting point. The defense lawyers presented nothing but facts and reinforced the case facts throughout the entire trial. The prosecution offered no convincing forensic evidence other than the known case facts. They continually disregarded and discounted any facts that did not fit their theory and must have swayed the Jury to do the same. You might wonder, as we did, how this could have happened. How was a guilty verdict obtained?

Enter into the trial:

A false confession

An extremely poor video or no video

Untruthful and misleading testimony

A circumstantial, unsubstantiated prosecution theory

Now the picture begins to come into focus. We will discuss the first and most important reason, “A false confession” at this time. The others will be the subject of subsequent entries.

Research has shown that Juries everywhere are heavily influenced by confessions. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is a true one or a false one. Erick’s Jury was no different. We have to lean in that direction, because, there is no other logical reason why he was convicted. In past entries, it was pointed out that he more than likely gave a false confession. There are some confidential issues that we cannot elaborate on that support this analysis. However, based on that assumption, for all practical purposes, Erick Westervelt’s confession was not true.

We will present an ABC News article about “How A False Confession Can Sway A Jury”

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About wrongful convictions. 
In previous entries, we have mentioned that the Westervelt case appears to be a classic example of a wrongful conviction. Rather than reiterate the reasoning behind this conclusion, we will focus on how wrongful convictions occur. We have assembled links to several excellent websites that offer expanded views regarding this subject. Please take the time to evaluate this information and reflect upon what could possibly become the expected behavior of people working within the criminal justice system in future years.

Added information regarding the NYSBA Task Force on Wrongful Convictions.

http://www.queensda.org/newpressrelease ... 3_2009.pdf

http://www.queensda.org/newpressrelease ... 2013_1.pdf

Causes of wrongful convictions.


http://www.exonerate.org/facts/causes-o ... nvictions/

http://www.thejusticeproject.org/report ... -critical/

Government Misconduct.

http://www.innocenceproject.org/underst ... onduct.php

http://www.exonerate.org/facts/causes-o ... isconduct/



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“There is no justice!” 
“Nowhere to turn.”, “The wheels of justice turn slow.”, “No one is listening”, “Catch- 22 situation”, “No light at the end of the tunnel”.

These sayings and similar ones are uttered hundreds or perhaps thousands of times a day all over the world. Basically they all reflect a sense of despair. Most often they reflect the feelings of those who are incarcerated in a prison. Call it what you want; correctional facility, institution or detention center, it is still prison. They are not free, they are locked in a cell, they are caged, they are restricted, they are demoralized and live in constant fear of being raped. How long would it take them to return to a “normal” life after experiencing this kind of existence for a year or more? The possibility is most likely never.

Now, combine the anxiety of being in a prison for many years and being innocent. People in this situation are degraded to the point of hopelessness. Once convicted and sentenced for a crime that they did not commit, these people are waiting and praying for nothing less than a miracle. Because, that is exactly what it will take to set them free. There is absolutely no help or apathy afforded these people unless there is money to have lawyers working for years to set the record straight. The process is slower than slow and there are absolutely no guarantees that anything or anyone will convince a judge that they were wrongly convicted.

Lately, there has been a tiny thread of optimism beginning to spread throughout the country in the form of innocence projects and innocence commissions. More and more people are learning about wrongful convictions and what produces them. The reasons for wanting to know more about them are varied. Maybe it’s the enormous cost of incarceration or the advanced DNA technology that is exonerating the wrongly convicted. Whatever the reason, the innocent people locked in the prisons are not getting their hopes up. Even if New York State was to adopt an “innocence review board” of sorts, there is a long waiting line which promises to take years to sort through the massive buildup of cases.

Regardless, you have to start somewhere and the New York State Bar Association has undertaken a mission to investigate the causes of wrongful convictions. The NYSBA has been aware for a long time that the probability of a wrongful conviction in NY State is excessively high and actually increasing each year. Recently, they have been analyzing about 50 NY State cases of exonerated people who had been wrongfully convicted. The majority of these people had spent many years in prison before their "miracle" took place. About half of the cases were reversed by DNA analysis. Their intentions are to make recommendations to the NY State government on how to prevent wrongful convictions from occurring in the future.

Again, you have to start somewhere, but remember, “The wheels of justice turn slow” and people like Erick Westervelt are in a “Catch-22 situation” for the foreseeable future. Even if the State adopts the NYSBA recommendations and forms a “case review board”, who gets in line first? The person incarcerated the longest? Would it become a bureaucratic version of the Parole Board? Or will the program fizzle for some reason and never become the watchdog of the NY State Criminal Justice system.

Whatever happens, the incarcerated innocent victims of a crime will still have “Nowhere to turn” for quite some time before there is that faint glimmer of “Light at the end of the tunnel.” In the meantime, they will be hoping for that miracle to come along, Their families will continue to try and win the lottery in order to retain the best lawyers and NCJ will continue to attempt to muster the cavalry for those people in peril.

Unfortunately, irreversible psychological damage has been inflicted upon those wrongly convicted innocent victims and their families. Also unfortunately, very few of them rise above the social stigma associated with their long incarceration and a crime they did not commit. This problem should also be addressed in any overhaul of the system.

Of course, there will always be people maintaining that “No one is listening” and proclaiming that “There is no justice.”

The people at NCJ will remain optimistic. We will continue to have faith and endeavor to improve our criminal justice system.

Here is a link to the NYSBA website and information about the present program.

http://www.nysba.org/AM/Template.cfm?Se ... NTID=21310

Read the NYSBA Task Force’s Preliminary Report here.

http://www.nysba.org/Content/Navigation ... report.pdf

Here are “must read” links to recently exonerated people who were wrongly convicted for murders they did not commit.

http://blog.law.northwestern.edu/bluhm/ ... nvictions/

http://blog.law.northwestern.edu/bluhm/ ... nfessions/

http://www.exonerate.org/facts/causes-o ... nvictions/

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Truth or deception? That is the question! 
Why wasn’t Erick Westervelt’s testimony believed? Why wasn’t his parent’s testimony believed? His younger brother was prepared to verify the same story that they all knew. Erick was at home with them watching the first playoff baseball game of the 2004 pennant race, when the crime was committed. To all of them, it would have been physically impossible for him to be at the crime scene.

They all knew exactly what day and time it was, because of this very distinguishable sports event. Mrs. Westervelt remembered that day vividly also, because she was watching the vice presidential debates that evening while her husband and boys were watching the game.

The police asked them about that day a mere three days later, so why wouldn’t the events of the day be fresh in their mind. But, here is where the investigation began to get skewed and they still do not know why. The police detectives interviewed them at home and the family made it plain that Erick could not have done what they were accusing him of.

Why didn’t the detectives believe them?

Why didn’t they take sworn statements from them?

Why didn’t they interview neighbors and family friends in order to locate someone who might corroborate the family’s statements?

Why didn’t they offer to verify their stories by asking them to take polygraph tests?

Why didn’t they pursue any other theories for possible suspects?


Maybe they just didn’t want to believe that his alibi was plausible.

Maybe they didn’t realize that their interrogation method might have produced a false confession.

Maybe they figured Erick’s “confession” was all that was needed to get a conviction.

Maybe they thought that they didn’t need to confirm any of the things that Erick told them.

Maybe they figured that they didn’t need to do anything else.

Maybe they didn’t do a lot of things….. and maybe we may never know.

An NCJ criminal analyst originated this phrase when this blog was first begun more than two years ago and it is displayed at the bottom of each page.

..........An injustice occurs when a crime is not fully investigated............

Apparently, the case was solved as far as they were concerned. Maybe they would just need some type of physical evidence to wrap it up. By all accounts, they were not interested in verifying Erick’s alibi. So, the next thing was to search the Westervelt residence, which was done the day after Erick was arrested. They confiscated a computer and a wooden souvenir replica tomahawk that became the “valuable” evidence in their theory. How much the jury valued the presented information is unknown. The realistic value of this “valuable” evidence is not perceived as such by other professionals and laypeople familiar with the entire case. There were also some articles of clothing, floppy disks, letters, notes and some other items that had no forensic value.

According to Erick, he figured that all of the items that he identified in his “confession” would be easily located at his home and it would become obvious that his signed statement was not true and he would be exonerated. Well, all of the items were there and easily located. But, for some reason, the detectives were not looking to identify anything that would obviously support Erick’s non involvement. Not one thing that was confiscated bore any evidence to support a factual scenario that implicated Erick as the perpetrator of the crime. Apparently, this did not deter the police or the prosecutor. They proceeded to develop a theory based upon flawed information that was never scrutinized by anyone within a criminal justice system that relies on professional integrity.

The family would have had plenty of time to remove, hide or destroy any evidence before the police executed a search warrant. They did not attempt to do anything, because, according to them, there was nothing to hide. All of the bloody clothes, footwear, bandanna, gloves and wooden tomahawk that Erick “confessed’ to have on him the night of the murder and thrown in a neighbor’s garbage can, was right there in plain sight waiting to be found. He claims that he decided to make up a story after being held for an extended period of time, just so he could go home. After all, the police kept telling him it was “no big deal” and he was just being accused of being in a fight with the victim. Another interesting aspect that was never mentioned anywhere is, that if he had disposed of all of his clothing around midnight as stated in the “confession”, he would have been driving home in just a pair of undershorts. Try to put your mind around that scenario; not impossible, but not convincing either. How would he explain that if stopped by police or sneaking into the house? His mother and father testified that he never left the house at all that night and she last saw him at 12:30 AM, before she went to bed.

As far as the souvenir wooden tomahawk, aka the “hatchet”, being the murder weapon, it also turned out to be of no forensic value. The prosecution suggested that there might have been another one like it used to bludgeon the victim. The one they confiscated might not have been the “hatchet” that Erick's "confession" indicated he had disposed of. Regardless, the prosecutor stated in his closing trial statement, “You know what, this actually could have been the one, he could have washed it off, but we don’t know”.

The one thing that we do know at NCJ, is that there must have been some mighty confused jurors.

“Oh! what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17.
Scottish author & novelist (1771 - 1832)

These are only a few of a great many questions about this case that appears to have been more of a fantasy than a criminal investigation and prosecution of a crime.

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The confession session. 
In previous postings we have touched on many different aspects of the Erick Westervelt case. The major stumbling block for the defense was the “confession”. Without it, the police would not have been able to make an arrest. Without it, the prosecutor would not have been able to present the case in court. In other words, there would not have been a case against Westervelt. The “confession” was everything. The defense tried to convince the jury that it was a “false confession”. They were not successful, probably because they underestimated the powerful impact the “confession” would have on the jury. We mentioned previously that they brought in an expert witness to testify about false confessions. The prosecutor must have surely known that he had to discredit that testimony or lose the case. He was successful and the “confession” remained untarnished.

Recently, an NCJ associate brought the following information to our attention and we are passing it on to you. This is an article written by Attorney David Kopel, the son of a long time Colorado State Representative. We all were in awe when we realized that this 1998 writing was practically verbatim according to what took place during Westervelt’s time with the police in 2004. Kopel’s source of information was Dr. Richard Leo, the famous psychologist and sociologist, who has written many papers about false confessions.

NCJ has examined the transcripts of the two police videos that were presented at trial. These videos were many hours long and the interrogation procedure detailed by Kopel is found throughout. The “confession session” that was not videotaped or recorded, but testified to by Westervelt, bears a strong footprint of the remaining elements of the procedure.

The prosecutor portrayed Westervelt as being a very intelligent, knowledgeable individual who studied criminology and sociology in college. It is just too bad that Erick never read anything written by Leo or Kopel, for he most likely would have realized what the police were doing to him. What is even more ironic, is the fact that the jury never got the chance to really know how false confessions are created.

Here is the beginning of Kopel’s article. Click on the link at the end to read the entire article.

Just Say Nothing by Dave Kopel

What if you've just been arrested for something which shouldn't be a crime? For instance, if a burglar breaks into your home, attacks your children and you shoot him. Should you talk to the police in detail about what happened? In a word, "No." Shut up, call the best lawyer you can find, and then continue to shut up. If you talk to the police, you will only make things worse for yourself.

Sociologist Richard Leo has written several articles which detail the deliberately deceptive techniques which police use to extract a confession.

First of all, since 1986 the Unites States Supreme Court has required that all persons under arrest be given the Miranda warnings, so that they will know that they have a right to remain silent, and the right to a lawyer. So how do police convince a suspect to talk, even after the Miranda warning?

Professor Leo explains that "police routinely deliver Miranda warnings in a perfunctory tone of voice and ritualistic behavioral manner, effectively conveying that these warnings are little more than a bureaucratic triviality." Of course, the Miranda warnings are not trivial; your liberty may hinge on heeding those warnings.

Read More......


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As mentioned at the beginning of this special report, there were two cases in the same town that involved murders that took place just weeks apart. There are uncanny similarities in both cases that boggle the mind. The other case involved Christopher Porco, another college student, who was convicted of murdering his father and assaulting his mother.

A series of news articles about the Porco case and trial can be found at the website of CrimeAndJustice.us

There was much more media attention given to the Porco case; mainly because the victim was a law clerk for a New York State Appellate Court Judge. The news coverage gained national status and appeared on the CBS News program, “48 Hours”.

Here are some of the Interesting aspects about the Westervelt and Porco cases.

1. They occurred in the same township.
2. They occurred 5 weeks apart.
3. The same police agency and detectives investigated the crimes.
4. The same prosecutor’s office and same Assistant DA tried the case.
5. Lawyers from the same law firm represented the accused in each case.
6. Both cases were based upon circumstantial evidence.
7. No DNA or direct physical evidence was found in either case.
8. Both men were 23 year old college seniors.
9. Both murders occurred at night with no witnesses.
10. The accused were the only suspects in each case.
11. The juries disregarded the alibis and mother’s testimony in each case.
12. Both are serving life sentences at Clinton Correctional Facility, Dannemora, NY.

There were definite differences between the two cases though. The most significant being that Westervelt did have an alibi supported by three family members. They stated that he was at home with them watching TV. Whereas, Porco didn’t have an alibi that was supported by anyone. He maintained that he was in his college dormitory, yet no other students confirmed that they had seen him.

In spite of the differences, Westervelt’s alibi was never verified or disproven by the police and the prosecutor convinced the jury that it was not valid. Porco's alibi was not corroborated by the police and the prosecutor maintained that it was not valid either.

There was never any indication that Westervelt and Porco had any connection with each other. Porco lived in the town where both crimes were committed and Westervelt lived in an adjoining town. They had gone to different schools while growing up and attended different colleges.

Nevertheless, there was much speculation that the cases were connected because the news media reported that a hatchet was used in the Westervelt case and an axe was used in the Porco case. As it turned out, there was no hatchet involved in the first one, but there was an axe found at the scene of the other. It was determined that the victims in both cases had suffered from blunt force trauma to the head.

The following is a scathing assessment of each case as it appears on the website of TruthInJustice.org.

Christopher Porco

When police were summoned to the Bethlehem, NY home of Joan and Peter Porco in the early hours of November 14, 2004, they found Peter hacked to death and Joan terribly wounded. Det. Chris Bowdish felt he knew as soon as he walked into the house that one of the two Porco sons, Jonathan or Christopher, had to have been responsible. He asked Joan if Jonathan had done it, and she shook her head "no." Then he asked if Christopher did it, and he says she nodded "yes." There was never any turning back after that; no other suspects were ever considered, and the state built a single-minded case to convict Christopher -- despite Joan's strong support of Christopher's innocence and the irrelevance of a "head nod" as evidence of anything at all.

Erick Westervelt

Funny thing about Bethlehem, NY. In a span of 5 weeks during the fall of 2004, and within a radius of less than 3 miles, two college seniors with no connection to one another hacked people to death. That is the bill of goods sold to juries, first in Erick Westervelt's case, then in Christopher Porco's case. Det. Chris Bowdish and his partner, Det. Charles Rudolph, used classic Reid techniques over a 2-day period to extract what they said was Erick Westervelt's confession to the bludgeoning murder of Timothy Gray. No physical evidence connected Westervelt to Gray's killing, and Westervelt had a solid alibi.

Instead of patting each other's backs, these crack detectives and prosecutors from Albany County, NY should be looking over their shoulders for a serial killer.

In Conclusion:
Were these crimes committed by the same person(s)? There are still a lot of people that feel neither case was proven beyond a reasonable doubt and they question the veracity of the police and prosecution in both of these cases.

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