Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TX - Record interrogations: Reduce false confessions

Original Article


CBS News' 60 Minutes last night had a disturbing story on the subject of false confessions, honing in on police interrogation of juveniles in Chicago, which the story called the nation's false confession capital. In a bizarre twist, a Chicago prosecutor insisted she believed in the guilt of exonerated defendants even after DNA had cleared them and implicated a convicted rapist. She suggested the rapist who's DNA was discovered (who is now deceased) coincidentally wandered by an open field after the fact and had sex with the corpse of a 14 year old, AFTER the boys who'd confessed had committed the deed. The courts disagreed, though, based on a close analysis of the recorded confessions, and released them with an accompanying finding of actual innocence.

The story reminded me Grits failed to link to a recent story from the Texas Tribune about proposed legislation by state Sen. Rodney Ellis to require police to record custodial interrogations, which was one of the recommendations of the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions that the Texas Lege failed to act on last session. Critics of the bill rely on several highly questionable claims, but once you get past red herrings about cost and logistics, it comes down to these two: Criminals might "get off" if unrecorded confessions are suppressed and jurors would not understand often-aggressive interrogation techniques that may lead to an eventual confession.

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