Innocence Project Applauds Colorado’s New Law Requiring Recording of Interrogations

06.13.16 By Innocence Staff

Innocence Project Applauds Colorado’s New Law Requiring Recording of Interrogations
Law will protect against false confessions, a top contributor to wrongful conviction
(Denver, Colorado – June 13, 2016) Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday signed into law a bipartisan bill (HB 16-1117) that will require all Colorado law enforcement agencies to electronically record the entirety of custodial interrogations in certain felony cases. Recording interrogations is a safeguard against wrongful convictions stemming from false confession, which has contributed to roughly one quarter of the nation’s 342 wrongful convictions proven by DNA evidence.  
“I want to commend Gov. Hickenlooper, our champions in the legislature and the leaders in the prosecutorial and defense communities who worked collaboratively to enact the single most important reform shown to reduce wrongful convictions based on false confessions,” said Amshula Jayaram, State Policy Advocate for the Innocence Project which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “This law will not only protect the innocent, it will strengthen good cases against the real perpetrators of crimes. This is a big win for all Coloradans.”
“This is a big win for all Coloradans.” -Amshula Jayaram


HB 16-1117 was introduced in the House by Reps. Daniel Kagan (D-3) and Lori Saine (R-63) and was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Irene Aguilar (D-32) and John Cooke (R-13). The new law will require police to record interrogations of suspects in class 1 and class 2 felonies, which include most violent crimes such as homicide and kidnapping.  


The new law is the latest collaborative proposal to be borne out of the Colorado Best Practices Committee, a group formed in 2014 and led by the Colorado Attorney General and the Colorado District Attorneys Council, in close partnership with law enforcement, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the Innocence Project. Last year, Colorado enacted another strong innocence reform measure that reduces eyewitness misidentifications by improving the way identification procedures are conducted.


“As a former head of the Homicide Unit and Major Crimes Section of the Denver Police Department, I can affirm that recording interrogations is a great help to both police and prosecutors. The Denver PD, having been a leader and innovator in the practice of video recorded interviews and working with the Denver District Attorney, began using these procedures over 30 years ago with great success. The vast majority of law enforcement officers are honest individuals striving to identify the real perpetrators responsible for any criminal incident. Recording the entirety of interrogations provides an objective record of the conditions under which statements and confessions are obtained, and it also protects against any unjustified claims of police coercion,” said Jonathyn Priest, a former lieutenant with the Denver Police Department. “Many law enforcement agencies in Colorado have adopted a video recording process and I am confident that as other law enforcement organizations throughout the state begin regularly using this procedure, they too will be convinced as to its effectiveness.”


“I am thrilled that Colorado continues to blaze a trail in terms of sound criminal justice reform policy. This law requiring the recording of interrogations is another byproduct of the collaborative relationship between the prosecutorial, defense and criminal justice communities in Colorado, all of whom share the goal of ensuring the fair administration of justice in our great state. This is a great day for Colorado,” said Maureen Cain, a Colorado criminal defense attorney.  


Related: Compensation for Wrongfully Convicted Passes Michigan Senate 

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