Police Fail to Record Interrogation in Notorious New York Murder Case
Twenty-two years ago, a little girl’s body was discovered in a cooler beside a Manhattan highway. Earlier this month, a cousin of the victim was arrested and he admitted to killing the four-year-old girl — Anjélica Castillo — who became known in the media as “Baby Hope.” A few days after Conrado Juárez confessed to murdering his little cousin, however, he withdrew part of his confession.
The New York Times
reports that Juárez told a reporter that he helped dispose of the body but did not kill the girl: “The detectives had badgered him for hours, he said, insisting on his guilt. ‘So after a while and after so much pressure, I accepted it and said what they wanted,’ he told the reporter.”
Investigators recorded Juárez’s confession after an assistant district attorney arrived to take his statement, but failed to record the 12-hour interrogation that preceded it despite an assurance from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly last year, that the NYPD would begin videotaping interrogations from start to finish.
The article explains that “[t]he notion of a coerced confession could be rebutted in court, had the police videotaped the entire interrogation, a practice that is becoming more common around the country, and has been adopted in Chicago and some other major cities.”
The New York Times
, two-thirds of detective squads in the city have yet to begin recording interrogations and the room where Juárez was questioned was not outfitted with video equipment.
In approximately 25% of the wrongful convictions overturned with DNA evidence,
defendants made false confessions or admissions to law enforcement officials
, which is why recording of interrogations is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions.
More than 800 jurisdictions nationwide, including the states of New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, require the police to videotape interviews of people suspected of serious crimes.
“ ‘New York is clearly out of step,’ said Steven A. Drizin, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law who advocates taping. ‘In an age where everybody on the jury has a cell phone that can record fairly high quality video, juries expect to see video and they are skeptical of the cops saying they can’t do it.’ ”
A bill that would have required the police to record interrogations of suspects in homicide and rape cases was introduced last session, but it failed to pass despite support from the governor, the District Attorneys Association, the New York State Justice Task Force, and police officials including Kelly.
According the police department’s chief spokesman, John J. McCarthy, only 28 detective squads of the more than 76 across Manhattan have an interview room set up with recording equipment.
More on the Baby Hope case
New Study Finds False Confessions More Likely Among Juveniles
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