Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Easy Peasy

According to the Urban Dictionary, the complete descriptor is "easy peasy lemon squeezy."
It comes from a 1970's british TV commercial for Lemon Squeezy detergent. They were with a little girl who points out dirty greasy dishes to an adult (mom or relative) and then this adult produces Lemon Squeezy and they clean the dishes quickly. At the end of the commercial the girl says "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy".
Whatever the origin of the phrase, getting Preston Hughes to confess to capital murder was easy peasy lemon squeezy. It only took from 4:10 AM, when Sgt. Gafford entered the interrogation room, to 5:40 AM, when Sgt. Gafford confronted Preston with the impossibility evidence that Shandra identified her attacker as Preston, causing Preston to say "I don't want to go to jail" and then confess.

That's only 90 minutes. That's nothing. That's chump change time.

It took between 14 and 30 hours to extract false confessions from each of the five youths convicted of raping the Central Park Jogger. The five served between 6 and 12 years before being freed after DNA testing identified the actual rapist, who (by the way) raped another woman four months after the five confessed.

It took 9 hours to convince the first of the Norfolk Four to falsely confess to rape and murder. (For the best ever telling of this story, see my post The Unindicted Co-Ejaculator.) Not only did the first guy confess, he implicated another innocent person as an accomplice, and that person also falsely confessed to rape and murder. Not only did the second person falsely confess, he implicated two other innocent people and they both falsely confessed to rape and murder. The DNA from the victim matched none of the four. The DNA from the victim did, however, match the actual rapist murderer, who (by the way) continued to rape and murder as the four rotted away behind bars.

The Houston Police Department, on the other hand, managed to extract a false confession from Preston Hughes in just 90 minutes. That's because someone convinced Preston he could go home if he would just sign that silly, nonsensical confession. (See The Big Why for proof of that last claim.)

Now it may seem odd to you that anyone could be so naive, but I say au contraire, si'l vou plait. The State and people of Texas had trained Preston to believe such a thing was not only possible, but routine.

Three years earlier, Preston had pled guilty to charges of aggravated assault (third degree felony) and aggravated sexual assault (first degree felony). Preston claims he was innocent and accepted the plea to avoid prison. I have no particular insight into that case, and I don't claim to know whether or not he was innocent. I do, however, take note of the fact that the (alleged?) victim in the case was under age by a fair amount and that Preston (allegedly?) fired a gun at (or near) her to intimidate her, to keep her from testifying.

The charges could very easily have been rape and assault with a deadly weapon. Texas does not take kindly to people who rape and then threaten the life of young teenage girls. If Texas could have made a half-way decent case, I suspect they would have done so. Instead, they several times offered Preston a reduced sentence for a plea of guilty, lowing the sentence each time. Preston, however, insisted he was innocent and didn't want to go to jail. He held tough and refused to take a plea.

That is, he refused to take a plea until they told him he could go home.  If he confessed to a crime, he would be given ten years probation, and he could go home.

He confessed and he went home.

From Preston's perspective, he was framed once before for a crime he did not commit. He believed back then that they would attempt to convict him using falsified evidence, and he believed they might pull it off. When offered the opportunity to walk free in exchange for a confession, he took it.

It is therefore no big surprise that when confronted with false evidence of a murder he did not commit, and when offered the choice of life behind bars or a free walk, he took the free walk.

The decision was easy peasy lemon squeezy.

*** THE END ***

But wait! There's more!

The first confession was but a prelude. Preston Hughes would soon be told that he would have to sign a second.

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Anonymous said...

Although it takes a while to get a hold of Preston, you should ask him.

I disagree and I think he was thinking of his long term future. A condition of probation would have been that it would go away and he would serve that too along with the punishment for killing two people. They would say, "You've been known to be rough to women, shot at one, and Shandra said your name" Confess and you might get 20 years in jail instead of the chair. By claiming self defense he would be hoping for a very light sentence.


tsj said...

Perhaps you missed The Big Why, but the first thing Preston did after signing the confession was to call his boss and tell him he would be in to work the next day.

That doesn't sound like someone who is hoping to get only 20 years.

Anonymous said...

That's why I said you can also ask him and say that I hope to help future people understand the tactics of police.

But even then, since the normal process of a crime is that they charge a person with the crime, set bail, and then come back for the case he was still thinking he might get out on bail. I won't dismiss it, but this guy would be an idiot. His defense wasn't that they lied to him, but rather they threatened him.


Anonymous said...

Plenty of smart people confess to crimes they didn't commit, though its obvious Preston while not an idiot, was probably very naive.

Money quote from 2nd article I wrote on Hughes for this blog -

"The Economist magazine, in article from their Aug 13th, 2011 issue quotes, the researcher, Dr Kassin suggesting, “... that participants may have the naive—though common—belief that the world is a just place, and that their innocence will emerge in the end..."


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