News 05.08.14

New Death Penalty Report Finds Value in Recording Interrogations

A new report issued by The Constitution Project, a nonprofit organization that neither supports nor condemns capital punishment, urged that all interrogations of suspects in capital cases be videotaped in an effort to prevent wrongful convictions. Released Tuesday, the report, which was authored by a committee of former high-level prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officers and correctional officials, cited the wrongful conviction of Innocence Project client

Earl Washington

in its recommendation for reform. Washington was a local farmhand with a low IQ who falsely confessed to the murder and rape of a Virginia woman and was sentenced to death. He spent 17 years in prison before DNA evidence proved his innocence. Recording interrogations would deter police coercion and document how suspects with mental impairments are treated during questioning.

 

ProPublica reported that the committee asserted that juries should be instructed to consider whether an unrecorded statement was coerced or made voluntarily. In approximately 25% of the wrongful convictions overturned with DNA evidence, defendants made false confessions, admissions or statements to law enforcement officials. The electronic recording of interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions.

 

The Constitution Project’s report comes on the heels of Oklahoma’s botched execution last week.

 

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