1. Demonstrated Ability of Detectives to Obtain False Confessions
With the advent of DNA testing, the alarmingly high incidence of false confessions has been widely documented. Barry Beach's case is a classic example of how detectives obtain false confessions.
In 1983, four years after the Nees murder, 20-year-old Barry Beach was arrested in Louisiana on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The charge was in connection with Beach taking in his runaway 14-year-old stepsister. The complaint leading to his arrest was lodged by Beach's stepmother. In short, this was a domestic dispute. It was Beach's stepmother who told detectives that Barry had been questioned in the Nees murder. Of course, he was one of just several young men in Poplar who had been questioned in that investigation. It has never been clear why, four years after the murder and after he had been cleared as a suspect by the Roosevelt County Sheriff's Department, the Louisiana lawmen came to believe they had the right man.
Nonetheless, Louisiana detectives intensively interrogated Beach. And not only about the delinquency charge and the Nees case, but also another unsolved murder in Louisiana that these Louisiana lawmen were trying to solve.
Documentation shows that during the day Barry was interrogated there was extensive communication between the Louisiana detectives and the Roosevelt County sheriff in Montana. Transcripts of phone conversations show one detective stating that they were "tired men" and that he had "lost his voice." Interestingly, the tape recordings of the actual interrogation have been destroyed and no transcripts were made of the interrogation.
Further, Beach had no attorney present during the interrogation or confession. In fact, despite the detectives' false testimony that Beach had repeated his confession in the presence of his attorney (Paul Kidd), Kidd has submitted a sworn affidavit that he was not present. He subsequently testified to exactly that before the Board of Pardons and Parole. The absence of an attorney during the interrogation and confession, along with the detectives' false testimony about Kidd's presence, sheds extreme doubt on the validity of Beach's confession.
But perhaps the most telling evidence of the Louisiana detectives' ability to coerce confessions is their history of doing it.
In addition to obtaining Barry Beach's confession to the murder of Kim Nees, the detectives maintained that Beach also confessed to his attorney to a local Louisiana murder of Kathy Wharton (which evidence proved he could not have committed). Later in 1983, those same detectives separately obtained confessions from two other men for the Louisiana murder. Twenty-four years later, DNA evidence collected at the 1983 Louisiana crime scene identified the actual killer, exonerating the two men who had confessed under interrogation to these same detectives.
In other words, the Louisiana detectives had coerced two wrongful confessions for the Wharton murder after being dead certain that Barry Beach had done it. Just as they claimed that each of these two other men knew things only the real killer would have known, they claimed Barry Beach knew facts in the Nees case that only the real killer would have known.