In an op-ed in the Texas Tribune on Thursday, former United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Thomas P. Sullivan called for Texas to pass a law requiring police to adopt evidence-based investigative practices in order to address the state’s high rate of wrongful convictions.
Sullivan says that practices such as the videotaped recording of interrogations both prevent wrongful convictions and help identify and convict the actual perpetrator of a crime. Not only can the videotaped recording of an interrogation protect an innocent person from being convicted due to coercive interrogation tactics, but police can also review the recording for signs they may have missed during the interrogation and to improve their interview techniques, he says. Sullivan also notes that prosecutors favor cases in which there is a videotaped confession.
Sullivan and his associates at the firm Jenner & Block surveyed police and sheriffs in all 50 states about their experiences videotaping custodial interrogations. They found that departments across the nation—including 40 in Texas–reported enthusiastic support for the practice.
Sullivan also notes that most police departments in Texas are already videotaping interrogations, but since there is no uniform procedure in place, it is done at the agencies’ discretion. A state law is needed, he writes, in order to effectively prevent wrongful convictions and to increase public confidence in the integrity and fairness of Texas’ criminal justice system.
Read the op-ed here.