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Overshadowing Innocence: Evaluating and Challenging The False Confession
By Julie E. Bear, Scott A. Bresler
What gets us into trouble is not what
we don’t know, it’s what we know for
sure that just ain’t so.
— Mark Twain
In April 2006, the sheriff’s department in Cass County, Nebraska,
proudly announced the arrest of Matthew Livers and his cousin, Nicholas
Sampson, for the murder of Matthew’s aunt and uncle, a wealthy rural
farm couple found shot to death in their home. Livers had confessed to
killing the pair and implicated his cousin as a co-conspirator. The
investigators proffered a number of different motives for the killings
including greed, revenge, and family disharmony. The local prosecutor
promptly filed charges against the two men and spoke of seeking the
death penalty. There was a problem, however. The confession was false;
not a word of it was true.
By June 2006, the Cass County Sheriff’s Department announced the arrest
of 19-year-old Gregory Fester and 17-year-old Jessica Reid, two
teenagers on a crime spree from Wisconsin. The teenagers later confessed
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