CLOSE
ThinkStock
ThinkStock

Unlawful Knowledge

ThinkStock
ThinkStock

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Imagine the following: a man is charged with the brutal rape of an elderly woman. After rounds of interrogation, he finally cracks and confesses. During his trial, that confession is retold to the jury, and it is riddled with facts that only the attacker could have known: how he entered the home, where he struck his victim, etc. The jury, of course, convicts the accused.

In the matter of Eddie Lowery, something akin to the above happened. He was accused of—and confessed to—the rape of a 75-year-old woman, recounting his bad acts in great detail. Lowery served a decade in prison for his crime. Or, rather, Lowery served a decade in prison for the crime of some other man. Because, despite what he somehow knew, Eddie Lowery was innocent.

As reported by The New York Times, Lowery was exonerated when DNA evidence demonstrated that someone else was the rapist, not Lowery. But that came well after his parole, 10 years after his conviction. And it came after the trial, the confession, and, importantly, a 7-hour interrogation by police. University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett—who studied the stories of roughly 40 such innocents who confessed—offered a likely theory to the Times centering upon these lengthy interrogations. The stress leaves the accused in poor mental shape, looking for any way to end the badgering by police. So they confess, perhaps in hopes that their weak grasp of salient facts will later demonstrate the confession to be an empty one.

But something else occurs during that interrogation, argue Garrett and others. The police, most likely unintentionally, make mention of these facts here and there, and the accused may remember them and, subconsciously, reintroduce them into their confessions. (Or, perhaps, the police “correct” the accused along the way.) So instead of being able to point to clear and convincing evidence that your “confession” was anything but, the accused unintentionally demonstrate their guilt—falsely.

Lowery would find himself back in the legal system after this imbroglio—he brought an action against the district which wrongly convicted him, and received a $7.5 million settlement.

To subscribe to Dan's daily email Now I Know, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
video
Bone Broth 101
5669938080001

Whether you drink it on its own or use it as stock, bone broth is the perfect recipe to master this winter. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
iStock
iStock

If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios