The approved measure provides that, when practical, a custodial interrogation should be recorded, in its entirety, using audio-visual equipment or audio equipment. It requires the Texas Department of Public Safety to adopt rules for providing funds or electronic recording equipment to law enforcement agencies.
Ellis called the change, headed to the House, “a very modest step in the right direction.”
Senators acted after Ellis fielded questions from Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who expressed concern that the failure of a police officer to record an interview might be exploited by defense attorneys.
“I don’t want this to be a big loophole that you could drive a truck through to get people off” from criminal charges, Patrick said. He added that he supports Ellis’s intent.
Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, aired similar concerns.
Patrick and Huffman voted against the bill (though doing his best John Kerry impression, Sen. Patrick voted for the bill in committee before he was against it).
Both senators kept saying that confessions might be excluded or defense attorneys might "get people off" because an interrogation wasn't recorded, ignoring explicit language in the bill stating that "Nothing in this article affects the admissibility of a statement that is otherwise admissible as evidence in a criminal proceeding."
So even if an interrogation is not recorded, all the evidence gained from it still would get into court. Sen. Ellis kept reading that language to him over and over, but Sen. Patrick wouldn't take "yes" for an answer.
I don't know if Patrick and Huffman simply didn't read the bill (it's only a one-pager and not very complex) or were misled by critics in the law enforcement lobby, but the whole conversation was odd and off point. Congrats to Sen. Ellis, in any event, for getting his bill through.
See prior, related Grits posts:
- Jurors from false confession case call for recorded confessions
- Recording interrogations in best interest of law enforcement, justice
- Recording interrogations makes loads of sense
- Expert: Yogurt Shop case a prime example of false confessions
- False confessions a "systematic feature of American justice"
- Recording confessions saves much grief for police
- Police interrogation a 'guilt presumptive' process
- Would you confess to a crime you didn't commit to save your life?
- If CIA can record interrogations, so can police
- Abilene PD requires recording interrogations
- El Paso conference brought together top minds to prevent false confessions
- Why record interrogations?
- Juries need more, better information to prevent false convictions