Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Why record confessions?

Dallas PD will begin recording interrogations in murder cases, but can't decide whether the benefit to their cases' certainty outweighs their desire to conceal evidence of possible police misconduct from criminal defense attorneys. Reports the Dallas News:
Experts disagree on whether it's better to tape an entire interrogation leading up to a confession, or just the confession.

Proponents of more thorough taping argue that recording only 20 minutes of six hours of questioning could lead to accusations of coercion.

Others say that taping just the confession limits possible material for defense attorneys who might note something early in the suspect's interrogation session that hints he/she didn't commit the crime – even if there's a confession later.

Dallas officials haven't decided how much of an interrogation they will record.
So, Dallas officials may not record the full interrrogation because it might provide evidence the defendant didn't commit a crime! DPD hesitates even though one reason they're implementing the policy is that recently a woman falsely accused an officer of raping her during an interrogation -- only taping the confession, not the full interrogation, wouldn't protect officers from such charges.

Which lays out the fundamental choice Dallas PD must make: Do they care more about protecting officers from false allegations, or are they more fearful evidence of a defendant's innocence might fall into the hands of his attorney?

As near as I can tell, the only reason not to record the whole interrogation is to preserve the cops' ability to present a coerced confession in court without documenting how they obtained it. Otherwise, the incentives regarding surety of convictions and officer safety all argue for taping everything. More from Have Opinion, Will Travel and Alaskablawg.

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