no way

If anyone needs an explanation of how it is possible that the wrongful prosecutions of the young people I have been writing about can be happening in America, you must view a Frontline program I just streamed last night: ”The Confessions,” the story about the so-called “Norfolk Four”—young Navy men who were coerced by Norfolk VA police into making false confessions implicating themselves in a 1997 rape/murder with which they had nothing to do and for which a sexual predator—unknown and unrelated to them and linked to the crime by DNA—confessed.

It is the ultimate story of the police dreaming up a crime scenario and then twisting the truth and coercing malleable people to get the answers they wanted, regardless of the physical evidence or rational common sense. It is the ultimate example of a prosecutor pursuing a conviction for its own sake, and by any means necessary, without any respect for truth or regard for the lives and welfare of the innocent people who stood in the way of his winning in the adversarial arena of the courtroom.

Here’s the link: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/the-confessions/. It is worth your time and attention.

There are two obvious villains in this story:

Former Norfolk VA police detective Robert Glenn Ford, who extorted the false confessions and has since been found guilty by a US District Court of extorting money from defendants in exchange for getting them favorable treatment. Sentencing is scheduled for a week from today.

Former Norfolk Commonwealth Prosecutor D.J. Hansen, who joined the Chesapeake Commonwealth’s Attorney Office in 2001, where he continues to lead the state’s wrongful prosecution of the Norfolk Four case despite overwhelming evidence that his original prosecution was an egregious error. Some guys are simply too small to admit they could be wrong, and have too little moral backbone to be true to what’s right rather than who’s right.

Yet there is a third “villain,” too—and I hope you will not accuse me of grinding an unrelated axe. My question is this: how is it possible that detective Ford, who by all accounts was a skilled and aggressive interrogator whose methods drew heavily on proven torture techniques (the threat of the death penalty, sleep deprivation, intimidation, etc.), could have succeeded in gaining multiple false confessions from four sailors who had nothing to do with the crime?

The answer is: The young men’s schooling.

The young men had been conditioned by their schooling to be compliant to authority, and this compliance and malleability had been used and reinforced in their military service. One of the innocent men was so passive and mentally slow that he eventually believed he did have something to do with the crime. In every case, the coerced confession carried more weight in court than objective evidence—who in the world, the question was asked repeatedly, would ever confess to a rape and murder if one weren’t guilty?

The answer is: Victims of operant conditioning such as is delivered in our schools!

As I watched this Frontline episode and its interviews of these unfortunate young men who had bought themselves up to eleven years of wrongful imprisonment by caving in to the demands of their interrogator, I kept saying to myself that I would not have been capable of making the same mistake. But then, I have always been a “failed” product of American schooling. (The only time I was ever suspended from school was for insubordination—and I’m still proud I stood my ground!) I have always had a problem with authority, which is one of the main reasons why I live in this desert mountain “no man’s land” outside the grasp of almost all authority.

In the coming weeks I will be writing about a phenomenon in America that some are calling the “School-to-Prison Pipeline,” a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from appropriate educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out. “Zero-tolerance” policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while high-stakes testing programs encourage school administrators to push out low-performing students to improve their schools’ overall test scores.

To this point, the main focus on the Pipeline has come from civil libertarians who view the phenomenon as mainly impacting Black and Hispanic and “Special Education” kids—but this identifies only the tip of the problem.

The vast majority of young people who are damaged by the School-to-Prison Pipeline—a strategic design continuum—are normal whitebread kids who never get in trouble, who tow the line and maybe even become obedient sailors and soldiers or schoolteachers.

As this Frontline episode makes so clear, the most effective means of imprisonment is mental. We are becoming a nation of slaves with invisible shackles and chains which are forged in the schools.

We’re only slaves if we agree to be.

And I say “No Way!”


Groove of the Day

Listen to Charlatans (UK) performing “A Man Needs To Be Told”


Please go to the comments to today’s post to see a just-received message about Jordan Brown from a man who needs to be told a thing or two–then do what you will.


13 Responses to “no way”

  1. February 18, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    From: “Christopher Sheppard” (satanicdoomelf@yahoo.com)

    To: info@jordanbrowntrust.org

    My only regret is that JB isn’t being sentenced to death. Now my tax dollars are going to feed and house your piece of shit kid for the rest of his life. If we’re lucky, someone will kill him off in prison.

  2. 4 Gloria
    February 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Can you believe this. How much america enjoy destroying the lifes of children. Any time soon america will start to try as adults 5,6,7,8 and 9 years old as adults. Repugnant.


  3. February 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    I was arrested last year for a misdemeanor crime and I stated to the founder of the Done Task Force that I would be running for sheriff and he told me, “Marrufo don’t you have any felonies”. I mean come on really these corrupted officials make it their duty to make sure us children that have been on “disciplinary watch list” since the second grade, they make it their jobs to continue to harass and persecute many young and innocent children up into their adult hood.

    I was arrested and expelled from high school for selling a joint to a future murderer whom told the teacher it was mine. No problem I thought, I am never scared of punishment because like my late grandmother from Kentucky would always say, “you do the crime, you do the time”.

    Well I understand why I was arrested and expelled but why not the future murderer that through the joint back to me in front of the teacher’s eyes. This child should of been expelled for attempting to buy the drug off me. Maybe it was because he was white or he was not on this “disciplinary watch list”. He later goes on to kill a good friend of all of ours. Robbed her of her cocaine, shot her in the head with a shot gun and went on to have sexual relation with the body. A very sick world that continues to allow the real problem escalate.

    I have found peace with those who continue to commit bigotry and spread hate. I no longer will be like them but will continue to forgive them and pray for them. The point is that this watch list would see a situation such a a police officer following two possible drunk driving vehicles full of drug addicts, then that cop would see one care doing nothing wrong but since that one car is on the watch list, that officer would quit pursuit of possible drunk drivers just to pull over that innocent vehicle they have sworn their time, duty and life to continue to hold down those that appear not to be that serious of a threat to the community.

    May God be with our enemies.

    • 6 Mike
      February 18, 2011 at 7:16 pm

      Quote: “May God be with our enemies.” Look at Jesus Christ. All the evil people beat him, scourged him, hung him on a cross and eventially killed him BUT we know the rest of the story. He beat death!

      God will take vengeance on all the Christopher Sheppards of the world. That’s why it is so important that we continue to do whats right for all these children and just feel sorry for those who have no compassion…their lives just have to be miserable (even though they probably would never admit it) but how can you be happy with so much hate in your heart. Sad.

  4. 7 fallo
    February 18, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Just want to make sure you are aware of this man. He’s one of the good guys, too.

  5. 8 Jeanne
    February 19, 2011 at 12:10 am

    The above note from “Satan” is not surprising. What an A@@hole.

    Re: Your journal today, your right. Many youths are being pushed little by little into youth juvenile centers. I have many family members that are educators. It starts with minor infractions, suspensions, expulsions, alternative schools, then juvenile prisons, etc.

    No one wants to take the time to help a lot of these kids. The one’s that do are usually out numbered by the bureaucratic BS that ruins everything.

    Many of these kids are literally without any parental guidance. It is strange how this is known within the schools, yet tolerated. Everyone turns their head because there are so many kids in need of help and so much red tape to get a kid proper help.

    I am all for a new name for orphanages. There literally could be a little community of kids that can live in these homes and have schooling, food, people who care about them, etc. (No more weekend “back-packs full of food” needed for children who have no food.)

    This would solve a lot of heart ache, save a lot of money, and provide hope for those children that the schools deem “hopeless” cases, because they do not have the means to help them, just move them on.

  6. 9 Dana Hoffman
    February 19, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Mr shepard I would be inclined to say that you are walking on thin ice making the remarks that you have here regarding Jordan Brown. May I remind you that its useless flesh like yourself that causes friv lawsuits to happen and once again another member of the clan MORONS GONE WILD. Do your home work Mr Shepard and stop relying on others to make up your mind for you and once you do your home work and you can find any piece of 100% positive proof that Jordan Brown did this then you can say what the hell you like, but I did my home work and I have the proof that Kenzie is not the innocent person you claim she is, so bite me! You need to be placed in that little boys position have done to you 10000 times over what you wished on him .Have a good day you jerk!

  7. 10 Dana Hoffman
    February 20, 2011 at 12:02 am

    If anyone wishes to see what kind of people the Houks really are, visit this forum where their criminal records are posted: http://freejordanbrown.proboards.com Here Mr Shepard in dedication of your own stupidity

  8. 11 Mike
    February 20, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    The comments of Mr. Satanic Doom in some ways has derailed the conversation on this blog entry. Mr. Dailey makes some provocative points in this piece and they are worth reflecting on. I first must say that I am extremely grateful that he provided the link to the Frontline piece on the Norfolk Four. My reaction to it was the same as when I first learned about Paul Henry Gingerich: I had a very fitful sleep and whenever I woke up those men’s faces and words were in my mind. It’s strange, but I am thankful for lost sleep when it’s a matter of concern for justice that disturbs me. There must be something right about me: my conscience seems to be working just fine, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the case with former governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine or the Norfolk County commonwealth’s attorney’s office (what we call the prosecutor’s officer here in VA).

    However, I am not so happy with Mr. Dailey’s analysis of the link between the Norfolk Four’s experiences and the education system. He wrote, “The young men had been conditioned by their schooling to be compliant to authority, and this compliance and malleability had been used and reinforced by their military service.” I will be among the first to draw up a list of the short-comings of our educational system–while disagreeing vigorously with the (cowardly and opportunistic) politicians who continue to wreak ruin on our system by their so-called “No Child Left Behind” legislation.

    One of my areas of expertise is in the field of trauma studies, and for me watching the Norfolk Four confirmed many things that we know about trauma. These men were subjected to interrogation methods designed to produce trauma. Their language in describing their experience is the language of trauma. Eric says, “I froze” when he first heard during the interrogation that he was being accused of doing the crime. Danial used language like “I felt caged.” There are three natural human responses to a traumatic event: flight, fight, or freeze. These men had no choice but to take the worst option: freeze. Freeze is the worst option because it traps all the traumatic energy within the body. There was no way they could flee or fight. The experts who provide commentary don’t characterize their experience as “trauma” but they do emphasize the smallness of the room, the long hours spent in interrogation, being exposed to “the instruments of torture” in Ford’s descriptions of the death penalty, and so forth. PBS really needed to have a trauma expert working with them on this presentation.

    For me the reality of the trauma suffered by these men became most apparent in the case of Derrick. He was the one who tried to re-enact for viewers what the interrogation was like by playing the role of detective Ford. The journalist who set up this scene did something that was incredibly insensitive and stupid. He/she had Derrick re-traumatize himself by re-living the interrogation. We could all see what it did to Derrick as he broke down and was unable to continue. At the end of the video we see that Derrick now sequesters himself in his little room at home because “that’s where I’m safe,” he says. This yearning for a safe space is so typical of trauma victims.

    What I am saying here is that education alone–I don’t care how good it is–is NO protection against this kind of traumatizing experience. Trauma is a result of physiological and emotional reactions over which our rational brains have little or no control (cf. Peter Levine WAKING THE TIGER). Even this point was revealed in the comment made by one of the men (possibly Eric) when he said, “rational thought kicked back in” after some time had passed.

    I am not saying that this level of traumatization was inevitable. Trauma responses are not predictable because every individual has a different degree of resilience (or ability to withstand trauma). Clearly it wasn’t inevitable in the case of the real murderer/rapist Omar Ballard. Hardened by his experiences on the street and with other criminal activities, Ballard was not frightened by Ford and not traumatized. It actually makes sense that the four falsely accused young men, being decent, law-abiding human beings would be much more prone to traumatization than Ballard. Those familiar with trauma know that natural disasters and accidents can cause serious trauma, but that the most serious type of trauma is that which is caused by human-on-human violence. Human beings like Eric, Derrick, Joe,and Danial would have been subjected to some desensitization training as part of their military preparation, but this apparently did not prepare them for the “violence” they would suffer at the hands of Det. Ford. The shock of being abused by other humans was too much for them to bear; their traumatized emotional state led them to make the false confessions. Their confessions had nothing to do with their school education or being conditioned to be compliant. So please throw away that theory, Mr. Dailey.

    • February 21, 2011 at 2:50 am

      Hi Mike, and thanks as always for your thoughtful comments.

      I do not disagree with anything you have said about these young men suffering from trauma or PTSD. However, I still stand by my belief that American public schooling BY DESIGN conditions individuals to be susceptable to the kind of coercion and manipulation inflicted on these young men by Detective Ford. Just as some people are more susceptable to hypnosis than others, these young men were likely made more malleable to intimidation by authority figures by the years of conditioning delivered through their schooling.

      One of these days I’ll do another post on the history of American schooling to make this case. In the meantime, maybe this quote by one of the most pivotal figures in the development of our public schools will at least suggest to you that I am not making up this “theory” out of thin air…

      William Torrey Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906 in The Philosophy of Education, published in 1906: “Ninety-nine (students) out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.”


  9. 13 Frvi Game
    June 12, 2013 at 2:36 am

    I visited various web sites except the audio feature for audio songs present at this web site is truly fabulous.

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