The International Association of Chiefs of Police has made wrongful convictions a priority. A recent article from Police Chief Magazine reported that the best practices to avoid false confession include recording the entirety of interrogations, and keeping secret some crime details to ensure innocent suspects do not just parrot back inside information gleaned from their interrogators.Not only does recording interrogations help prevent false convictions (or at least identify them after the fact), it also provides better evidence for prosecutors and juries, prevents he-said she-said disputes about what went on in interrogation rooms, serves as a buffer against police misconduct, and prevents false accusations against police interrogators. “I think that police officers and prosecutors, properly trained, could do this and do it well,” said a prosecutor quoted in the story. “It would just enhance the cases and take away a lot of the arguments about coercion and force and things of that nature.”
Richard Leo, an academic who has been doing empirical research on police interrogation practices for 20 years and is a frequent expert witness in cases involving false confessions, said he is seeing a growing movement nationally to record confessions.
Leo said the movement has developed because of greater understanding of what causes false confessions. He listed, for example:
- lying to suspects about the evidence against them;
- the length of interrogations;
- the propensity of people to comply with authority;
- mental illness or low intelligence;
- and implications from police interrogators that if a suspect makes an admission, he is “not admitting to a crime or admitting to something that has very serious consequences.”
One hopes the Texas Legislature will prioritize this issue when it re-convenes for its 84th session in 2015.
See related Grits posts:
- Shaky science, un-recorded confession lie form basis of El Paso habeas writ
- El Paso case highlights need for recording interrogations
- Canales: Record custodial interrogations
- Record interrogations, reduce false confessions
- Police arguments against recording interrogations allow fear to impede self interest
- Latest exoneration highlights problem of false confessions
- Are false confessions 'coerced' or 'persuaded'?
- CCA orders Yogurt Shop retrial based on possibility of false confessions
- Jurors from false confession case call for recorded interrogations
- 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