Recording Interrogations, Advancing Justice
On July 7, two Chicago men were freed after spending 21 years in prison for murders they’ve always said they didn’t commit. Ronald Kitchen says he falsely confessed to the crimes after detectives under the command of former Chicago Detective Jon Burge allegedly beat him during an interrogation. Kitchen and his co-defendant Martin Reeves were freed after prosecutors reopened the investigation. The Center on Wrongful Convictions, a member of the Innocence Network, represented Kitchen for years, leading up to his release.
False confessions were a factor in 25% of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing, and recording of interrogation has been proven to help prevent this injustice from happening. Recording of interrogations creates an accurate record of what was said during an interrogation so judges and juries can see a full record of what happened. The Innocence Project works with partners around the country – including police, prosecutors and victims’ rights organizations – to enact laws requiring recording of interrogations, and while there has been great progress in 2009, there’s still a long way to go.
On July 9, 2009, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a law requiring law enforcement agencies to record interrogations in serious crimes whenever feasible. With his signature, Missouri became the 16th state in the U.S. to require recording of interrogations. Montana and Oregon also passed recording of interrogation laws this year. Where does your state stand?
View our interactive reform map here
False confessions happen more often than most people think. They are prevalent in cases in which children are suspects or where the person being interrogation has a mental illness or disability. In some cases, however, mentally capable adults confess in order to end a long interrogation, thinking they will be able to go free once they confess and prove their innocence later. The recording of interrogations doesn’t only help innocent defendants prove the truth – it helps law enforcement as an investigative and training tool, and it helps prosecutors show juries when a confession is truly voluntary.
In addition to the
with law requiring recording of interrogations, more than 500 local jurisdictions record interrogations – and studies have found that police experiences with the practice are almost universally positive.
Resources on false confessions and recording of interrogations:
Innocence Project Recommendations on Recording Interrogations
Center on Wrongful Convictions video on the Kitchen/Reeves case
Center on Wrongful Convictions Report:
Police Experiences With Recording of Interrogations
Texas exoneree Chris Ochoa discusses his false confession and wrongful conviction
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