Ofshe lists his areas of interest to be coercive social control, social psychology, influence in police interrogation, and influence leading to pseudo-memory in psychotherapy.
Ofshe has been characterized as a "world-renowned expert on influence interrogation". He believes that coerced confessional testimony is extremely unreliable and stated in a Time Magazine article that "Recovered memory therapy will come to be recognized as the quackery of the 20th century." In a more recent Time Magazine article in 2005, Ofshe is quoted as saying that false testimony does not just occur through coercion, but may also occur in instances of "exhaustion or mental impairment." However, he also stated that it is only recently that juries have been allowed to hear expert testimony about these kinds of theories.
John E. Reid, developer of an interrogation method called the Reid technique that Ofshe and others have argued can lead to false confessions, is a primary critic of Ofshe.
Ofshe studied at Queens College of the City University of New York for his BA in psychology and MA in sociology and at Stanford University for a PhD, sociology, sub-specializing in social psychology.
Ofshe joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley at the level of assistant professor in the Department of Sociology in 1967. He was promoted to associate professor in 1971 and professor in 1982. At the University of California, he taught several courses, including a course entitled "Interpersonal Behavior in Small Groups". Ofshe was granted the title of Professor Emeritus in 2003.
Ofshe has received several honors and recognition for his research and writings:John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow, 1973-1974
Recipient of Roy Dorcus Award for the Best Paper on Clinical Hypnosis of 1994. Awarded by the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis for "Recovered Memory Therapy and Robust Repression: Influence and Pseudomemories."
For work on a series of articles that Ofshe contributed to on the Synanon movement, the newspaper, The Point Reyes Light, received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1979.
American Sociological Association
American Psychological Association
American Psychological Society
Sociological Practice Association
Pacific Sociological Association
In 2002, Ofshe appeared on the Larry King Live show, discussing the reliability of confessions. In 2005, the Associated Press characterized Ofshe as a "cult expert", when commenting on the murder trial of Marcus Wesson. Ofshe's writings on interrogation, confession and miscarriages of justice are pointed to by the American Psychological Association as widely accepted within psychology. His writings on interrogation and confession with professor Richard Leo are relied upon by the Supreme Judicial Court of Mass. and the Supreme Court of Canada.Tyrone Noling (2006)
Prosecutors in the case of Tyrone Noling, a man waiting on death row for the murder of an elderly couple in Atwater Township, Ohio, relied heavily on confession testimony. In 2006, Ofshe asserted that this kind of testimony is not reliable and may not be true: "All the confessions should be classified as 'untrustworthy' and 'unreliable,' said social psychologist Richard Ofshe, an expert in false confessions hired by Noling's appellate lawyers to review the men's statements." Ofshe stated that this was because "coercive interrogation tactics" were utilized by law enforcement to elicit these confessions."The Norfolk Four" (2005)
In 1997, a young Navy wife, Michelle Moore-Bosko, was found murdered. Police were convinced that she was murdered and raped by eight men. Five men later confessed, but forensic DNA evidence was only found tying one to the crimes. The four other men who confessed all recanted their testimony but were convicted anyway. Three of the four are currently serving life sentences. Lawyers from the Innocence Project agreed to take the case. The lawyers hired Ofshe as an expert witness in false testimony, and he stated: "Four innocent servicemen are languishing in prison for no reason, other than expediency". In 2009, the men were granted conditional pardons by the Virginia governor but are still seeking to have their convictions overturned.Marty Tankleff (2005)
In 2005, Ofshe appeared on CBS's 48 Hours, commenting on the Marty Tankleff case. He was helping to work on Tankleff's appeals process. The detectives had obtained a confession statement from Tankleff but did not videotape it. Ofshe argued that it was a false confession and that if there had been a videotape the court would have been able to witness the actual police interrogation methods used. "Ofshe believes that after being badgered for hours, Marty began to question his own memory -- and the police gave him a way out." Tankleff has subsequently been exonerated and the real killer identified.Robert Burns Springsteen IV (2001)
In 2001, Ofshe testified in the case of alleged murderer Robert Burns Springsteen IV. Ofshe stated that there was the possibility of police coercion in the confession. Judge Lynch stated that this was a judement for the jury to make. Years later, Springsteen and the others who suffered miscarriages were released by Judge Lynch.Paul Ingram (1996)
Ofshe was recruited by the investigators of the Paul Ingram case involving accusations of satanic ritual abuse. Ofshe concluded that Ingram was extremely suggestible and produced detailed pseudomemories after intense questioning and prayer in which he attempted to visualize himself performing the acts he was accused of. Ofshe published a journal article about the phenomenon, though his conclusions and methods were criticized. Ofshe also testified at Ingram's 1996 pardon hearing.West Memphis 3 (1993)
Ofshe gave testimony in the case of the West Memphis 3, three boys tried and convicted for the murders of three children in the Robin Hood Hills area of West Memphis, Arkansas, United States during 1993. Damien Echols, the alleged ringleader, was sentenced to death. Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were sentenced to life in prison. The case has received considerable attention. Many critics charge that the arrests and convictions were a miscarriage of justice inspired by a misguided moral panic and that the defendants were wrongfully convicted during a period of intense media scrutiny and so-called "satanic panic" of the 1980s and '90s. During Jessie's trial, Ofshe testified that the recording was a "classic example" of police coercion. The West Memphis Three were finally released from prison.
Scope of Expert Testimony Concerning Coercive Police Interrogation and False Confession Ofshe has testified as an expert on these subjects more than 350 times in 38 States, Federal Court, State Courts and Military Courts throughout the US and the world. Ofshe was the first expert to qualify this area of testimony in Federal Court in US v. Hall in 1997. The Utah Supreme Court in Nov. 2013 held that a judges failure to admit Ofshe's testimony was an abuse of the Judge's discretion. Ofshe has qualified under both Frye and Daubert standards over 50 times despite challenges by prosecutors.
After having to withdraw an amicus brief critical of Margaret Singer and favorable to the Moonies due to member protest, the American Psychological Association's board of Social and Ethical Responsibility for Psychology (BSERP) rejected a report presented by the APA taskforce on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control, stating that it lacked the scientific rigor and an evenhanded critical approach for and the imprimatur of the APA, Although Ofshe had nothing to do with the preparation of the report when the American Sociological Association replaced the APA as a supporter of the Moonies Ofshe investigated how this came about and discovered that the ASA's then president authorized the Association's name to be put on an amicus brief without knowledge or approval of the Association's board. Ofshe then became a subject of criticism and eventually he and Margaret Singer sued the APA and the ASA. Margaret Singer and Ofshe sued the APA in 1992 for "defamation, frauds, aiding and abetting and conspiracy". The case was dismissed by the court in 1994 on the basis that the claims of defamation, frauds, aiding and abetting and conspiracy constituted a dispute over the application of the First Amendment to a public debate over academic and professional matters; that the parties may be described as the opposing camps in a longstanding debate over certain theories in the field of psychology, and that the plaintiffs could not establish deceit with reference to representations made to other parties in the lawsuit.
In a further ruling, James R. Lamden ordered Ofshe and Singer to pay $80,000 in attorneys' fees under California's SLAPP suit law, which penalizes those who harass others for exercising their First Amendment rights. At that time, Singer and Ofshe declared their intention to sue Michael Flomenhaft, the lawyer that represented them in the case, for malpractice. Flomenhaft's insurance company paid the damages bill ordered by the court.