Could Ibragim Todashev Have Made a False Confession?

This American Life takes a look at the evidence.

The staff at This American Life posted an in-depth blog post analyzing the Florida State Prosecutor’s report on the FBI killing of Ibragim Todashev in which they explore the possibility that Todashev’s confession to a 2011 triple murder in Waltham with bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev might be false.

This American Life collaborated with Boston magazine in their full-hour story “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and Boston‘s March cover story “The Murders Before the Marathon.” In the post, the staff at This American Life compare the report to the radio story and answer some lingering questions about digital recordings of the interrogation and what evidence law enforcement had against Todashev before the fatal interview.

TAL also analyzes Boston‘s exclusive reporting on Todashev’s unredacted, partially written confession and an eyewitness account of the murder scene. The confession conflicts with what the eyewitness saw. TAL has reported extensively on false confessions, and in this blog post, experts on false confessions weigh in on the Todashev report.

Here’s an excerpt from the TAL post, but if you’ve been following this story, you should read the post in its entirety:

If it’s true that the victims’ hands weren’t taped or bound, why would Ibragim write that he’d taped them? If he did actually take part in the crime, it seems like a noteworthy detail to get wrong.

We called Jim Trainum, to get his take on it. Trainum is a former D.C. police detective who’s an expert on false confessions. (We did a story about Trainum and false confessions last fall.) Trainum does not have inside knowledge of Ibragim’s case. But he said that in general, in a reliable confession, when someone gives incorrect details it’s usually because they’re minimizing their role in the crime, not increasing it.

“For example,” he said, “a guy who kidnapped and murdered a child will admit to those but not to the sexual assault. However, if it were the opposite — if you had no sexual assault and the person admits sexual assault — then what’s going on there? Why increase their culpability?”

Trainum doesn’t have enough information on this particular case to determine if Ibragim’s confession was valid. But he said adding a detail like that can be a sign of a false confession. It’s odd that Ibragim would say he’d helped tape the murder victims’ hands if that didn’t actually happen