Tom Lowry’s New Blog Denying Accusations Against Him

by Brett Schulte on February 20, 2011 · 9 comments

Historian Thomas Lowry was accused of changing the date on a Lincoln pardon from April 15, 1864 to April 15, 1865, the day Lincoln was assassinated.  Fellow TOCWOC blogger Fred Ray wrote a post covering these events and the news cycle surrounding themTom Lowry has since come out with a WordPress Blog describing in detail his version of these events, and in the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I wanted to make sure we linked to the blog here.  I don’t know exactly what happened, but I must say my first instinct upon hearing the news was disbelief.  I’m not entirely sure the National Archives is blameless here or that Dr. Lowry did what he has been accused of.  Lowry submitted samples of his handwriting to a certified forensic document examiner, and I’m interested to see the results of this investigation.  He at least deserves the benefit of doubt unless some proof of his guilt is found.  His allegedly coerced signed confession is the most confusing part of this to me.  If I hadn’t done something, no amount of pressure would cause me to sign my name to a confession.


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Hall February 21, 2011 at 10:39 am

The signed confession is serious business. Other sources have described it as a “detailed” document written by Lowry himself, which would make it substantively different than a statement prepared by the investigators that he simply signed.

Coerced confessions do happen, and they’re a serious flaw in our criminal justice system. There are people in our prisons today who were coerced or tricked into signing false confessions, but my empathy with Dr. Lowry is limited. He knew he’d been under investigation for months, he is well-educated and, as a psychiatrist, should surely have recognized the coercion and the consequences of his confession, if indeed there actually was coercion. (I’m having a hard time picturing how the good cop/bad cop thing works around a suburban kitchen table.) In the grand scheme of justice, I’m much more concerned about the validity of the confession of some seventeen-year-old, locked up for hours in a precinct interrogation room, who eventually “confesses” to a killing because he doesn’t know he even has to have access to an attorney, than I am about Dr. Lowry getting barred from the National Archives.

The handwriting analysis Dr. Lowry commissioned seems like a non-starter for me, given the specific nature of the crime alleged. Whoever did it, the forgery consists of a single digit, intentionally written to match the style used at the in the larger document (i.e., not in the perpetrator’s normal handwriting). It’s hard to imagine that any conclusive finding could come from that.

In one respect I’m sorry that the Justice Department determined not to pursue this as a criminal case. I say that not because I’m a law-and-order, lock-’em-up type (I’m not), or because I want to see Dr. Lowry go to jail if convicted (I don’t especially). Rather, a trial would allow all parties to present their evidence in court, and to have it challenged by the other side. That would go a long way to settling questions we can now only speculate on, based on unsubstantiated assertions coming from both sides.

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Brett Schulte February 21, 2011 at 11:22 am

Andy,

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that an actual trial would have done much to wade through a lot of the he said/she said we are into now. I was unaware of Dr. Lowry’s background as a psychiatrist. That makes the coercion quite a bit harder to believe, if it wasn’t already. In any case, I’m sure we have not heard the last of this. Regardless of what the real truth of the matter is, the sad fact remains that someone changed a historical document in the Archives.

Brett

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Dan Cone February 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm

From what I’ve understood, the psychology of guilt and innocence goes like this:

When someone is guilty, they eventually break down.

When someone is innocent, they get angrier the more they’re pressed.

(Not an exact science, admittedly, yet something just doesn’t ring true about Lowry’s claims; a bit too much martyrdom in the tone of his blog…)

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John Koster February 22, 2011 at 8:42 am

Dan…You need to read up in the Norfolk Four — four hapless sailors coerced to confess to a rape and murder they never committed through fear of the death penalty even after the police knew (but didn’t tell them) that they had been cleared by DNA and polygraph. They stayed in prison until the real rapist confessed and said none of the sailors were implicated. The chief investigator who framed them is now facing prison for a number of crimes in unrelated cases, including extortion and taking bribes from drug dealers. Lowry has already passed a polygraph test indicating that he didn’t forge the letter, and people who know him personally find him a man of honor and generosity.

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Tom Lowry March 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

About coerced confessions — as I learned later I had been the recipient of the Reid interrogation method, a nine-step trademarked method, very successful in getting confessions from innocent and guilty alike. I’m amazed myself at having given in to the cops. As to “where are the e-mails?” under the Freedom of Information Act, I’ve requested any e-mails sent to me in 2010-2011 by the Archives about Pvt. Murphy. I don’t think there any. (Of course, any good hacker could create some.)

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John Koster March 12, 2011 at 7:25 am

Amazing — a man can built a reputation not only for ground-breaking scholarship but for great generosity, and still, most people line up with the bully….this sort of explains, I suppose, why some people can argue that slavery had nothing to do with the origins of the Civil War or, in an outside context, why Pearl Harbor was a “surprise” when newspapers had been predicting a war with Japan for a week before the event. Believe whatever the feds tell you….I did in 1967 (Gulf of Tonking torpedo boat attack) and that’s why I still walk with a limp.

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JOHN WAGNER February 5, 2012 at 4:05 am

Dear John Koster,

Regarding your statement: “…a man can built a reputation not only for ground-breaking scholarship…”

This is not much of a defense for a forger and hoaxer who just happens to be a shrink with money.

It would appear that you have an ax to grind with the government which really has nothing to do with Lowry’s swindle.

What motive would the government have to expend time and money to coerce this person? There is none.

As another commenter mentioned…. a person who is not guilty would only become more irate when pushed too far.

Lowry was honest when he confessed. That’s the most I can say for this fraud.

I would bet that all of his other “sensational” contributions to history are also fabricated.

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George Valyrakis October 6, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Dear Dr Lowry, did you ever give lectures aboard the Stella Maris in the 70′s?
If so I would like to hear from you.
Thank you
George (Yorgo) Valyrakis
yvdesignny@aol.com

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