“What did Martin Tankleff look and sound like when he confessed in 1988 to bludgeoning and slashing his parents to death?” the New York Times asks in a Saturday editorial. “We’ll never know. There is no video or audio recording, just an incomplete narrative, handwritten by detectives, which Mr. Tankleff signed, quickly repudiated, and spent nearly two decades trying to undo.”
DNA exonerations have proven that false confessions happen. In more than 25% of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing, a defendant confessed to a crime they didn’t commit. And electronic recording of interrogations prevents false confessions. Recording also aids prosecutors and law enforcement investigations – preserving a true account of an interrogation, allowing officers to focus on questions and not note-taking, and providing a training tool for future interrogations.
Illinois, Alaska and Minnesota – along with more than 500 local jurisdictions – record interrogations in some or most investigations. A bill stalled in the New York legislature last year, and the Times calls for passage of recording legislation this year.
The Tankleff case and the recent high-profile exoneration of Jeffrey Deskovic, who spent 16 years in prison for a rape and murder he confessed to but did not commit, both argue strongly for fixing this glaring flaw in New York’s justice system.
Read the full editorial here
. (New York Times, 01/13/08)
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