Yesterday, a Mississippi Court overturned the convictions of Phillip Bivens and Bobby Ray Dixon, two men who falsely pled to a 1979 murder of a woman. DNA has done it again:
Helfrich set aside the guilty pleas entered by Bivens and Bobby Ray Dixon in the May 1979 rape and murder of Eva Gail Patterson following a DNA test. The test matched semen from the crime scene to a DNA profile of Andrew Harris, who currently is serving a life sentence for another Forrest County rape.
Bivens was freed yesterday from his life sentence based on this result. Dixon was already out on medical release as he has an aggressive form of cancer. If Dixon can’t beat his cancer (;et’s hope and pray that he does), at least he will have been vindicated in this life. Bivens’ and Dixon’s co-defendant, Larry Ruffin, was not so lucky:
Larry Ruffin also was convicted in the Patterson case following a trial by jury, but he died in 2002 while serving his life sentence.
Ruffin was also proven innocent through this DNA testing. The only evidence connecting these three to this murder were their own words. Each confessed to the crime, even though they were innocent:
Maw said a study published in the Stanford Law Review by Brandon Garrett dissected the first 40 of the 63 DNA exonerations involving a false confession. Garrett found that 97 percent of those confessions contain “explicit details” of the crime. Maw said interrogators usually introduce these details without even knowing they did so.”When you actually look at the statements of Larry Ruffin, Phillip Bivens and Bobby Dixon, they are inconsistent in many respects,” Maw said in open court. “We now know that people falsely confess without being beaten, without being coerced, and it happens more often than we’d like to admit.”
She said interrogators leaking details to those who confess fits this case especially well, as the only thing the three confessions had in common were the facts the police knew about the actual crime. “I think this case is a very good example of why we have to scrutinize the content of these confessions,” Maw said. “If there is one lesson … it is to record interrogations.”
Well said. Mandatory recording of interrogations will be an issue that is taken up by the new Florida Innocence Commission. Congratulations to Mr. Bivens and Mr. Dixon and to all the good folks at IPNO for their wonderful work.