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Just Say You’re Sorry

In a Texas Cold Case, a Potential Murder Witness Slowly Realizes He’s a Suspect

In ‘Just Say You’re Sorry,’ a new Marshall Project podcast, we meet a famed Texas Ranger and a prisoner who says he was railroaded.

A sheriff hat and badge on a cream-colored background that includes a document from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Subscribe to “Smoke Screen: Just Say You’re Sorry.”

Would you confess to a crime you didn’t commit?

It’s hard to imagine. But what if the police told you they had proof of your involvement in a decade-old cold case? And what if they suggested you just didn’t remember committing the crime?

A couple of years ago, I learned about the case of Larry Driskill, who claimed that a Texas Ranger had manipulated him — through lies and other coercive tactics — into a false confession to the murder of Bobbie Sue Hill, a 29-year-old mother of five.

Pretty quickly I learned that Driskill, a 52-year-old Air Force veteran, had not confessed to just any detective. Texas Ranger James Holland was famous for eliciting confessions, especially from serial killers. He’d been credited with obtaining dozens of confessions from a California prisoner named Samuel Little, whom the Federal Bureau of Investigation was calling the “most prolific” murderer in U.S. history.

In the summer of 2021, I drove out to a remote prison to interview Driskill. I immersed myself in hours of audio and video from the interrogation room, and called psychologists to help me understand what I was hearing. I called up dozens of people connected to the case and Holland’s career — including Holland himself, who declined to be interviewed.

This all led to a story called “Anatomy of a Murder Confession,” which I published last year. But in a new podcast from The Marshall Project, Somethin’ Else, and Sony Music Entertainment, we go deeper.

In Episode 1, “Not That I Recall,” I describe how I first encountered Larry Driskill, and how he first encountered the Texas Ranger who would change the course of his life.

Listen to new episodes each Monday, through the player at the top of this page, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Go deeper:

Transcript:

Before we start, a warning that this episode contains descriptions of violence. Please take care as you listen.

Larry Driskill: Law enforcement? I was always taught and was raised, and the way I understood it was to trust them. They’re there to help you. But now that’s a totally different ballgame.

That voice you’re hearing belongs to Larry Driskill.

On a winter day, back in January of 2015, Driskill is working at a barn in Parker County. It’s a rural area about an hour from the city of Fort Worth, which explains why Driskill has that rich Texas twang. He looks the part too: jeans, ball cap, weathered face, salt and pepper hair.

A stranger approaches him.

Larry Driskill: He looked like a cowboy dressed up in cowboy garb and all that.

The man is tall. With a pristine white shirt and sharp creases in his clothes.

Larry Driskill: Nice pair of pants. And wore a cowboy hat.

He has a little star, made from a silver peso, pinned above his left shirt pocket. This star is the symbol of a legendary police division: The Texas Rangers.

Maurice: Did he have a gun in a holster?

Larry Driskill: Yeah, he had a gun in a holster.

Maurice: So it was clear he was [in] law enforcement.

Larry Driskill: Mm-hmm.

He introduces himself.

James Holland: Hey, Jim Holland with the Texas Rangers.

James Holland — who sometimes goes by Jim — is recording all of this…but Driskill doesn’t know that yet. What he does know is that the Texas Rangers are serious cops who command respect. So when Holland asks him to get in his truck and head over to the local sheriff’s office, he knows it must be important.

Larry Driskill: OK, am I in trouble or what?

James Holland: No, we, we think you might be able to help us on the deal.

Larry Driskill: OK.

Holland says, “We think you might be able to help us.”

Larry Driskill: That’s fine.

James Holland: All right, we’ll buckle up. Let’s go.

What Driskill doesn’t know is that he’s about to be questioned about a murder.

I’m Maurice Chammah and I’m a writer at The Marshall Project, where I report on the criminal justice system. At this point, I’ve looked into a lot of disturbing cases and gotten pretty cynical about the law. But this case — it’s really shaken me.

Because it raises a question: Would you admit to a crime you didn’t commit? Can you imagine yourself doing that? I couldn’t, until I came across this story.

In the early stages of reporting on this case, I got my hands on the recording of Holland and Driskill meeting for the first time, and the interrogation that followed.

James Holland: Um, how do you spell your last name?

Larry Driskill: Driskill. D-R-I-S-K-I-L-L.

I spent several days just sitting in my office and playing these tapes over and over.

It’s just addictive, trying to guess what each person is about to say, thinking, ‘Wait, where is Holland going with this?’ or ‘What exactly does Driskill mean by that?’ You’re constantly hearing these little surprises. And, until the end, you can’t imagine what’s going to happen.

Julia Shaw: It’s one of the most troubling interviews I’ve ever heard

Mike Ware: It was extraordinary in everything that can be bad in interrogations. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Jessi Freud: I absolutely know I would say anything to make it stop.

Over two days, Driskill goes from being a possible witness…

James Holland: You’re not under arrest. You don’t have to be here. You recognize all that.

…to being the prime suspect in this homicide investigation. He ends up confessing to strangling a woman and dumping her body in the middle of nowhere.

James Holland: Was it self-defense or did shit just get outta hand?

But he also maintains he can’t remember doing it.

Larry Driskill: If anything, it would’ve had to been self defense, but I can’t remember that.

Seven years later, Driskill is still in prison, convicted of murder.

And Holland? He’s become one of the most celebrated detectives of his generation.

ARCHIVE: Holland…that Texas Ranger has done amazing work to help pull this out and help solve cases.

Victor Patton: I had an old partner one time who said a fish would never get caught if he didn’t open his mouth. He’s a heck of a fisherman!

Jillian: He gets, he gets shit done and he comes in like a superhero.

But do superheroes ever get it wrong?

This isn’t a ‘whodunnit’ story. I’m not setting out to solve this crime. I have a different mission. I want to discover how James Holland, a detective at the top of his game, really operates. And to understand why Larry Driskill confessed to a murder he swears he didn’t commit.

Richard Leo: Everyone has a breaking point. We think we don’t, but we do.

James Holland: Can you do something for me?

Larry Driskill: What’s that?

James Holland: Say “I’m sorry.”

This is your chance in which you’re going to say that you’re sorry and that you made a mistake.

Larry Driskill: Sorry about what? What happened?

James Holland: You’re sorry about what happened?

Larry Driskill: Yeah. I’m sorry that it all happened.

James Holland: We know that you’re sorry for it. We know that it wasn’t intentional.

James Holland: Can you do something for me?

Larry Driskill: What’s that?

James Holland: You’re going to say that you’re sorry. Say “I’m sorry.”

James Holland: You’re sorry about what happened.

Larry Driskill: Sorry for what? I didn’t do nothing.

From Somethin’ Else, Sony Music Entertainment, and The Marshall Project, this is “Smoke Screen - Just Say You’re Sorry.”

Episode 1 - Not That I Recall

I was born in Austin and I’ve spent most of the last 10 years reporting in Texas. So I’ve done a lot of driving, all across the state — which, as we Texans will constantly tell you, until you’re tired of hearing it — is really big. During these travels, I meet these fascinating people in prisons and courtrooms.

One of them is the lawyer Mike Ware.

He’s the director of the Innocence Project of Texas, based in Fort Worth. We met more than a decade ago in a Mexican restaurant, when I was just starting my career.

Since then, I’ve seen Mike literally walk people out of jail after he and his team have proven that they were wrongfully convicted.

As a journalist and a source, we may not always see eye to eye, but I’ve learned to always take the meeting. So one morning, a few years ago, Mike is passing through Austin. We catch up over coffee. And it doesn’t take long for him to tell me about his newest client. Larry Driskill.

Mike gets lots of pleas for help from people in prison. I once got to see a warehouse full of boxes and boxes of these letters from people claiming their innocence. But Driskill’s story stands out to Mike. And it stands out because of one thing. The interrogation.

Mike Ware: This is an outlier, really, in interrogations I think.

Mike mostly makes his arguments in courtrooms. But he knows that public attention can make or break a case. He knows that other wrongful conviction lawyers have ways of contacting Kim Kardashian and Oprah. Mike has… me.

Mike Ware: We just want the truth to come out.

Maurice: Right.

Mike Ware: There’s no doubt in my mind what that is.

These conversations with lawyers are always a bit of a dance. Maybe my job has made me desensitized. But I’m usually thinking: Is there a compelling story here? Will people really care? And yet, as Mike gives me the details of Driskill’s case, I’ll admit it. My jaw drops.

So I start down the rabbit hole. I make a public information request and get hold of the case files, plus those police recordings we heard earlier. It’s actually kind of overwhelming how much audio I receive. I get what sounds like every minute of Holland’s interrogation of Driskill. But there’s no substitute for meeting the guy at the center of it all.

So in the summer of 2021, I find myself driving about four hours east of Austin, to a prison in this part of Texas that we call the Piney Woods. The town is actually called “Woodville” and the prison itself is surrounded by forests, which I pass through on the drive.

Maurice: I’m just gonna hit record so it’s going.

When I walk in, he’s behind a thick pane of plexiglass, and he’s holding one of those old telephone receivers. He’s in his 50s, wearing a ratty white cotton prison uniform with his name written in fading black ink above his shirt pocket: Larry Driskill.

Larry Driskill: How long did it take y’all to get down here? Six hours?

Let me pause here to say that most people in prison are not manipulative psychopaths, as some movies might lead you to think. In my experience, most prisoners, when you sit face-to-face with them, will tell you the truth, or at least their version of it.

And so it does make an impression when Driskill looks me in the eye and tells me that he didn’t kill anybody.

Larry Driskill: All I can think of is the man upstairs playing and he knows I didn’t do it, and he’ll take care of this in his time.

When I speak to Driskill he mentions God a lot.

Larry Driskill: I did a lot of talking to God. That’s all I know to say about that.

Beyond that, what strikes me is that he’s chatty and you can tell he’s smiling. Even behind the Covid face mask he’s wearing.

He has a lot of funny little phrases, like, “Can’t complain, but gonna do it anyway.”

If you’ve seen that old TV show “King of the Hill,” which is set in a small Texas town, this is the kind of thing one of the men might say as they drink beer on the lawn.

But it sounds different coming from a man who has been locked up for six years for a crime he says he didn’t commit. Someone like that, you would think, has plenty to complain about.

Driskill tells me that back in 2015 he was living in Aledo, Texas, about a half hour west of the city of Fort Worth. The city has almost a million people. Aledo only has around 5,000.

It’s in Parker County, which is very rural. Picture rolling hills that go on for miles, criss-crossed by rivers and highways, and dotted with peach farms and horse ranches.

At the time, Driskill worked for the county.

Larry Driskill: ‘Cause I was a licensed jailer in the state of Texas.

The local jail would send out some of the men under arrest, whom they deemed safe, to do road maintenance and other work. Driskill was essentially their boss. He tells me he had this reputation as a very hard worker.

Larry Driskill: If you had one of Larry you could get rid of four the guys you had, because he ain’t scared to work.

Maurice: What was an average week like for you? Before this all just sort of started up.

Larry Driskill: I just left, went, was at work most of the time at 6 o’clock in the morning. I’d get off at 4, 4:30.

Driskill also had a job as a handyman at a local family’s house: The Bradfords.

Larry Driskill: Then I’d go to the Bradfords straight from there and work there till 6, 7 o’clock at night. Unless it was summertime. Summertime. Sometimes it was even later than that when I got off work.

Maurice: Wow. So you were working 13, 14 hours?

Larry Driskill: Mm-hmm.

Maurice: Weekdays.

Larry Driskill: I used to do it six and seven days a week.

When a county-owned barn burned down, Driskill was put in charge of the reconstruction. And that’s where he was the day he met Texas Ranger James Holland.

Larry Driskill: The closest thing I’ve ever heard about Texas Rangers was Walker on TV, where Chuck Norris plays as a Ranger. Catching bad guys and doing all that other stuff.

Holland might not be Chuck Norris, but he’s still over 6 feet tall and cuts an imposing figure. Pretty much straight away, he asks Driskill if he can help him with his investigation. Driskill agrees and gets into his truck.

Holland asks if he knows the best route to the sheriff’s office.

James Holland: Well, I’m thinking that you run all these back roads, right?

Larry Driskill: Yes, sir.

James Holland: What’s the best way to get there? Just go straight?

Larry Driskill: To go to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office?

James Holland: Yeah.

Larry Driskill: Take a left.

James Holland: Take a left?

Larry Driskill: Yes, sir.

James Holland: You do know the back roads then, don’t you.

Like anyone in this situation, Driskill is curious to find out more.

Larry Driskill: What kind of case is it?

James Holland: It’s murder.

Larry Driskill: Oh shit.

James Holland: Yeah. Texas Ranger, man. We don’t do larceny cases. Right?

Larry Driskill: Right.

Listening back now, I can’t help feeling that the small talk that follows is more significant than it must have felt to Driskill at the time.

James Holland: Now you [are] from here originally, or…?

Larry Driskill: I was born in Boise, Idaho.

Driskill tells Holland that his dad was in the military. When he was a baby, Driskill’s family moved to Puerto Rico, and then finally settled in Texas. As a kid, he loved sports.

Larry Driskill: I played pee-wee football. I played baseball. And then after that I decided to go ride a few bulls in the rodeo. Just a normal everyday life in Texas.

Driskill’s promising rodeo career was cut short. He met a girl.

Larry Driskill: Well, the club that I met her at. Matter of fact, we walked in and a buddy of mine that lived in Weatherford, went up to the bar to get us a beer or whatever.

And I asked him, I said, “Do you know her?” She was up by the pool tables. He said, “Yeah, she goes to school with me.” I said, “Well, I wanna meet her.” And that’s what happened. We started dancing and that was it.

We dated for like three months and we were married.

Most people don’t work out, but mine lasted 30-something years.

Maurice: Wow.

Larry Driskill: And if this wouldn’t have happened, I’d probably still be married.

In the truck, Driskill tells Holland about his son and daughter, and two of his wife’s nephews, who he raised. He’s got grandkids now, too.

They talk about his many jobs.

James Holland: You got a little bit of a military strut to ya. I can look at you and tell you’ve been in the military.

Maurice: Holland says he can tell Driskill has been in the military. Larry replies…

Larry Driskill: 23 years.

James Holland: I’m guessing it ain’t the Coast Guard.

Larry Driskill: No Air Force.

Holland also tells Driskill a bit about himself.

James Holland: Well, let me describe my job. I’m a Ranger, OK. [I] travel to the great state of Texas and work cases really all over the U.S.

He’s known as an expert in closing cold cases.

James Holland: So it’s kinda interesting because in 20-plus years of being with the good old state of Texas, I don’t have any unsolved crimes.

Larry Driskill: Right.

Whether or not it’s strictly true that Holland has a perfect record, it sounds impressive.

After about 20 minutes, Holland and Driskill arrive at the Parker County Sheriff’s office.

Larry Driskill: They walked me into the sheriff’s office through the back door and just sat down and talked to me in a little room for a little while.

Driskill sits across from Holland. It’s a small room: just two chairs and a desk. There are no windows, just a lot of fluorescent light.

Holland takes his folder and produces a picture.

James Holland: You ever seen this girl?

Larry Driskill: She don’t look familiar to me, period.

It’s a picture of a woman in her late 20s with a small face and dirty blonde hair.

Larry Driskill: That’s all he asked me. Do I know, have I ever seen this girl? I said, Not that I know of. I don’t know anybody like that.

Holland asks a question that kind of comes out of left field.

James Holland: You ever messed with any, uh, prostitutes or anything like that?

Larry Driskill: Nope.

James Holland: Ever?

Larry Driskill: Never.

James Holland: You were in the Air Force for 23 years? Never went off to Guam and had a good time or anything?

Larry Driskill: I went to Guam twice, went to Hawaii, twice, been in Japan three times in four years, but I’ve never been with a prostitute in my life.

Driskill repeats that no, he’s never been with any kind of sex worker.

But Holland keeps pressing, implying that he knows Driskill is holding something back.

James Holland: Would you be surprised if Arlington PD had you on a list of people that had trolled prostitutes?

He’s suggesting that the local police department has Driskill down as a person who drives around looking for sex workers. Sitting in prison years later, Driskill told me this question didn’t stick out or worry him at the time.

But of course, looking back now, it’s the first really clear sign that there is far more going on in this conversation than Holland is letting on.

They talk around in circles, much of it just chit chat. If I were in Driskill’s shoes, I’d be starting to get frustrated here, like, What is this about? Holland has this ability to keep the conversation going without quite getting to the point. He even acknowledges this.

James Holland: So there’s a method to my madness. I’m not trying to drive you crazy or insult you or anything. It’s just the way that things work, if that’s OK.

Larry Driskill: Like I said, I’ll try to help where I can.

Holland keeps coming back to this place called East Lancaster Street, which may be connected to that woman in the photo. It’s this major road near downtown Fort Worth. It’s pretty well known for sex work and drugs. Lots of little run down motels.

James Holland: Well, you ever meet any girls or pick up any girls over there in Fort Worth?

Larry Driskill: No, sir.

James Holland: You ever swing by and some girls [are] hitting on you or something or throwing themselves at you?

Larry Driskill: No, sir, no sir. As far as I know of, I never gave anyone a ride down there.

Driskill keeps saying that he has no memory of giving someone a ride on East Lancaster street, or meeting any sex workers.

But at some point Holland says, “Well, that can’t be right, because there is proof.” He says the Fort Worth Police Department has recorded Driskill’s work van being on that street around the time that this woman went missing.

James Holland: Would you be surprised if I told you that Fort Worth PD had run you one time and had you over in Lancaster street around 2005?

The recordings start to get a little repetitive. No, says Driskill, no, I don’t remember, I don’t think so.

But in between those answers he’s also starting to say, “Well, maybe.” He’s searching the back of his mind for something that would explain his license plate showing up in police records from East Lancaster Street.

Eventually, he lands on something useful: He tells Holland that back then his father had fallen on hard times and ended up staying for a while at a shelter in that part of Fort Worth.

James Holland: How often did you go down to visit your dad?

Larry Driskill: I might go down there once, once or twice, three times while he was down there. And that was it.

Holland says, OK now we’re getting somewhere. Perhaps he did interact with this woman before she disappeared. Maybe he did see something that would help the investigation.

When I listened to these tapes the first time, I noticed this moment where something shifts between these two men.

At first, Holland is trying to butter up Driskill, and Driskill is wondering where this is all going, and maybe he’s finally getting a little annoyed that they’re talking in circles.

Driskill: I’ve never picked up anybody, prostitutes or otherwise, that I know of in my mind.

But gradually, this dynamic reverses: Driskill starts trying to please Holland by producing memories that he thinks will be helpful. Like that one about his dad. And it’s Holland who now starts to sound frustrated with the vagueness of Driskill’s memory.

James Holland: What do you mean by that? So you keep saying “It is in my mind.” — What does that mean? It means in someone else’s mind, it could have happened, or what? I never heard that saying.

Driskill: In my mind, I don’t remember off the top of my head being there or doing it, doing anything.

James Holland: Or doing what?

Larry Driskill: Being there.

Now, here’s Holland detonating a small bomb.

James Holland: But one of the indications that someone is maybe not being completely honest is they say, “Not that I can remember.”

Larry Driskill: Right.

James Holland: And what that is, that’s an indication that, Yes, but I don’t want to talk about it.

Larry Driskill: OK.

James Holland: But you gotta be honest with us, because if, if you’re not, then all of a sudden I start looking at you as maybe the person who did this crime.

Larry Driskill: Right.

“Maybe the person who did this.”

So the Texas Ranger, James Holland, implies that he might not believe Larry Driskill. That changes the tone of the conversation between these two men.

They keep talking, for several hours that afternoon. You can hear the tension starting to climb.

We already heard Holland tell Driskill that police tracked his license plate around East Lancaster street, back in 2005, and suggest that they have him on a list of people who see sex workers.

But then he really turns up the pressure: He tells Driskill that he was seen by eyewitnesses.

James Holland: Two of 'em that put you right off East Lancaster.

Larry Driskill: OK.

James Holland: In your van.

Larry Driskill: OK.

James Holland: Describe you to a T.

Larry Driskill: OK.

And there’s a girl who gets in your van for a little bit. But we have these two people that are definitively saying, this is you.

At this point Driskill might be wondering, “Hey, wait, where is this going?” When I hear it, I think, “Hey, maybe this is the point where you call a lawyer! Stop talking, Larry!”

But Driskill just sounds confused. How does Holland know it was him these people saw? That’s when the Ranger pulls out a sketch of a face and shows it to Driskill.

James Holland: What do you think that looks like?

Larry Driskill: Not me.

James Holland: Not at all?

Larry Driskill: Mm-hmm.

Holland believes the sketch matches the man in front of him. I’ve got that sketch, and it doesn’t not look like Driskill, but it’s hardly a dead ringer. They’re both White men, middle-aged, relatively skinny. The man in the sketch has a flat-top haircut and some wrinkles in his forehead. He’s wearing glasses.

Larry Driskill: That is not me.

Holland has another picture he wants to show him. Not a sketch. A photograph.

James Holland: So this is our dilemma.

Larry Driskill: OK. What the hell did somebody do to her?

It’s the same missing woman Holland had shown Driskill earlier, but this photo was taken after her body was found.

James Holland: Kind of see where we’re getting with this?

Larry Driskill: Yeah.

James Holland: We think, based on the information that we’ve been given…

Larry Driskill: Right.

James Holland: That we’re very positive of…

Larry Driskill: OK.

James Holland: …that you were the last person seen with this girl and we think that you, sir, can solve this crime.

Where before Holland was questioning Driskill’s memory gaps, now he’s reassuring him.

James Holland: I think you’re afraid.

Larry Driskill: Right.

James Holland: So you’re gonna get caught up in this deal. I don’t want you to be afraid. I want you to help me to get the son of a bitch that did this.

Larry Driskill: Right.

Suddenly Driskill has another, clearer memory.

Larry Driskill: The only thing I can maybe even think about the only time I ever remember is that a Dollar General or Family General store on Lancaster Street way the hell down, right?

James Holland: Yeah. I know where that is.

That I might have pulled in there and dropped somebody out. But other than that, I don’t remember anything.

James Holland: OK. Now we’re getting somewhere,

They finish the interview on this positive note. Maybe Driskill can remember something after all. And maybe that memory will help Holland solve the case.

Before he leaves, Driskill gives some DNA with a mouth swab, and agrees to return the next day to continue talking to Holland.

But the Ranger makes one last request.

Larry Driskill: He said, “Will you come in tomorrow and take a polygraph?” I said, “Yeah.” You know, he discussed some things about it and just kept asking me a bunch of questions. Just kept telling me I’m a witness. I’m a witness.

Holland reassures Larry that he expects him to pass the polygraph test in the morning, and that will then rule him out as a suspect.

James Holland: I mean, what’s my gut? My, my gut is, you probably ace this thing tomorrow and …

Larry Driskill: Right.

James Holland: Walk on down the road. Hopefully you can, you can remember something to help us out. If not…

Larry Driskill: If I can, I’ll tell you when I get here. But if I can’t, I can’t remember it.

James Holland: I hope you get a good night’s sleep. Relax.

James Holland: Take it easy. You’ve done these things before.

Larry Driskill: I’m going home to drink a beer.

James Holland: There you go. Have one for me too. Maybe two.

And that’s what Larry did.

Larry Driskill: Went home, picked up my wife. We went to Railhead Barbecue. I had a couple drinks, she had her little margaritas or whatever, and we ate barbecue and whatever, and then went home. We discussed a little bit, but not too much about anything.

The Railhead Smokehouse BBQ in Aledo is a community spot. I’ve been there. Picture a big patio with wooden tables topped with metal trays full of brisket and sausages, the sort of place you run into people you know. Families will stop in before the high school football game. There’s country music blasting from the speakers, and sometimes even a live band.

So that evening, Driskill is eating with his wife, and reflecting on this weird day: Leaving work with a Texas Ranger, going to the sheriff’s office, learning about a murder that took place 10 years ago, wracking his brain for memories.

By his own account, he was calm eating dinner. In retrospect, it seems obvious that he should have been freaking out.

I’m sure I would — at the very least — have called a lawyer by now, but again, that’s easy for me to say looking back. I have people like Mike Ware, the wrongful conviction lawyer, saved to my phone.

But the way Driskill tells it to me, he was still looking on the bright side. He’s optimistic, deferential. He has no reason not to trust the police.

Larry Driskill: I was just trying to help. Cause I just thought I was a witness and I thought, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

Given how much of this story rests on the reliability of Driskill’s memory, it’s notable to me that he does remember what restaurant he had dinner in that night, and even what he and his wife had to drink.

But I guess we’d all remember our last dinner in the free world.

The morning after Larry Driskill eats barbecue with his wife, he drives himself back to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office.

He’s agreed to take a polygraph test, on the understanding that it will show he’s telling the truth about what he’d witnessed 10 years earlier.

Larry Driskill: They hook a strap around your chest. Then they hook some things on your fingers and you’re supposed to sit there perfectly still.

Larry Driskill: I had my legs folded back up underneath my chair and my foot was kind of cocked up, at an angle. But you can’t move because you’re taking a polygraph test ‘cause if you move, that sets off all the stupid meters and everything.

We’re going to come back to this moment, and hear what happens in the crucial minutes after the results of that polygraph test are revealed. And then we’re going to hear the dramatic second day of James Holland’s interrogation of Larry Driskill as it unfolds.

James Holland: Listen, I’m trying to help you.

Larry Driskill: You ruining my life, is what you’re trying to do. And I didn’t do a damn thing.

James Holland: You know what? I’m, I’m trying to save your life.

I need to understand, how this high-stakes dance, between Holland and Driskill, plays out to its shocking conclusion.

James Holland: I’m trying to save your life because if you don’t paint this picture, Larry, then you’re gonna force us to.

Larry Driskill: I don’t know of a picture to paint.

But first, we’re going to look into the original police investigation of the murder, uncovering the chain of events that led James Holland to Larry Driskill.

Tim Dawson (a previous suspect in the case that led to Driskill’s conviction): [I said to Holland,] “You know, we’ve got something in common, me and you.” And he looked at me and went, “Huh?” I said, “Well, you didn’t do it, did you?” He said, “Well, no.” I said, “Well, I didn’t do it, right? ... You take the goddamn charge.”

It all begins with the disappearance of a woman: Bobbie Sue Hill.

That’s next time, on “Just Say You’re Sorry.”

CREDITS

“Smoke Screen: Just Say You’re Sorry,” is a production of Somethin’ Else, The Marshall project and Sony Music Entertainment. It’s written and hosted by me, Maurice Chammah. The senior producer is Tom Fuller, the producer is Georgia Mills, Peggy Sutton is the story editor, Dave Anderson is the executive producer and editor and Cheeka Eyers is the development producer. Akiba Solomon and I are the executive producers for The Marshall Project, where Susan Chira is editor-in-chief. The production manager is Ike Egbetola and fact-checking is by Natsumi Ajisaka. Graham Reynolds composed the original music and Charlie Brandon-King is the mixer and sound designer. The studio engineers are Josh Gibbs, Gulliver Lawrence Tickell, Jay Beale and Teddy Riley, with additional recording by Ryan Katz.


This series drew in part on my 2022 article for The Marshall Project, “Anatomy of a Murder Confession.” With thanks to Jez Nelson, Ruth Baldwin and Susan Chira.

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Maurice Chammah Twitter Email is a staff writer whose book, “Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty”, won the 2019 J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Book Award. A former Fulbright and H.F. Guggenheim fellow, he has reported on a range of criminal justice subjects, including jail conditions, sheriffs, wrongful convictions, and art by incarcerated people.