This site lies at the center of the worst and most famous wrongful conviction in Norwegian history. This is the site where a man named Fritz Moen did not assault a 20-year-old student named Torunn Finstad on the night before October 2, 1977. This is where he did not proceed to smash her head on a metal fence, shove her under the fence and down an incline, drag her over a field that was being used as an archery range, then rape and kill her. Moen served 18 years in prison for this crime and another, similar case (of which he was also innocent).
Fritz Moen was born deaf, and one of his arms was left paralyzed after an accident. He did not have any contact with other deaf people and didn’t receive any language training in either Norwegian or sign language until he was seven. Although he was of normal intelligence, his childhood and severe communicative troubles left him strongly disabled and with a peculiar personality. It seems likely that his understanding of abstract concepts like “truth” was limited. There was no physical evidence against him; in one of the two cases, there was found blood on the victim that didn’t match his blood type. He also had an alibi for the assumed time of one of the murders; the police later decided the victim had been murdered close to 24 hours later, when Moen lacked an alibi. He was convicted based on a confession he later claimed to have been duped or coerced into signing by the police. Even trained sign interpreters had problems understanding him at times; psychiatrists evaluating his case and people who had known him before the trial find it likely that he understood little of the long interrogations he was subjected to, and that he had a habit of indicating his understanding when in fact he had no idea what was being said.
Moen was finally exonerated of one of the crimes in 2004; he died in 2005, still a convicted murderer, but was exonerated of the second crime in 2006, after another man had confessed to the crimes on his death bed.
(I’ve basically mashed up the ideas of two projects I really like: Joel Sternfeld’s On this site and Taryn Simon’s The Innocents.)Jan 28, 2011