Monday, August 13, 2012

Videotaping of Confessions

Sean Gardiner, NYPD Videotaping in Virtual Pause WSJ (Aug. 12, 2012):

"When New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced in February 2010 that his agency would begin to video record some interrogations in their entirety, defense lawyers and civil-liberties groups were guardedly optimistic: The test suggested the NYPD may eventually embrace a practice already used by the majority of police forces in the state.

"Some 2 ½ years later, that is not the case. The department now is expanding the pilot program, but minimally: to five precincts from two.


"The NYPD has videotaped some confessions for years. But it has been slow to agree to record a messier aspect of policing: the precarious and confrontational nature of interrogations. Supporters say the practice protects both defendants and investigators, acting as a shield against coercion techniques that can lead to false confessions, and later, against untrue claims that suspects were pressured into admitting guilt.

"A taped confession is 'worthless' to a jury without the run-up, said veteran New York defense attorney Robert Gottlieb. Jurors who see the interrogation can judge the value of a confession and the methods used to get it, he said.

"Currently, 341 of the state's 509 police agencies are recording suspect interviews in some crimes, typically in at least murder and rape investigations, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. By virtue of its pilot program, the NYPD is included among them.

"Nationwide, 18 states and Washington, D.C., mandate the complete recording of interrogations for some crimes, said Rebecca Brown, director of state policy reform for the Innocence Project. A bill requiring either audio or video taping of interrogations in New York has passed the state Assembly but not the Senate."

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