An op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times calls for the New York State Senate to pass pending legislation that will require the videotaping of police interrogations from start to finish. Taping the entire custodial interrogation, rather than just the confession, would help prevent coercion and ensure the integrity of voluntary confessions. False confessions played a role in ten of the 23 DNA exonerations in New York State. In the infamous Central Park jogger case of 1989, five teenagers gave false confessions and were convicted of a rape they didn’t commit. All five were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2002.
The op-ed discusses the case of Khemwatie Bedessie, a day-care worker from Queens sentenced to 25 years in prison for raping and sexually abusing a 4-year-old boy. Bedessie claims her confession was coerced by police.
Who could imagine they [the Central Park teenagers] weren’t telling the truth? But, as experts point out, false confessions can appear very real. And the techniques used to produce them don’t have to take much time. “I’ve seen interrogations that led to false confessions which lasted less than one hour,” says a Northwestern University Law professor, Steve Drizin. In such a situation, he says, the defendant tends to be “highly vulnerable or suggestible.”… “I will do anything he want so he will send me home,” Ms. Bedessie testified, recalling the interrogation.