Photo: Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis with exonerees and their families.
Innocence Project Board Chair and Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis has proposed legislation to require the electronic recording of police interrogations, a policy that has been shown to prevent false confessions from becoming wrongful convictions. The recording bill was suggested by the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, which made policy recommendations based on its review of overturned convictions.
Texas law requires investigators to record confessions, but not entire interrogations. Recording the entire interrogation is especially important, since details of the crime can be inadvertently communicated to the suspect during questioning. The new bill would require police to record the entire interrogation in cases involving murder, kidnapping, human trafficking and some sex crimes, reported the Texas Tribune.
“Recording an interrogation is the most accurate means of preserving what happened in an interrogation room and what a suspect actually said,” Ellis said in an email.
Nationally, false confessions have contributed to approximately 25% of the wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence. Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia already require some recording of interrogations.
Though some members of law enforcement support the reform, the Houston Police Officers’ Union testified against similar legislation last year. Senator Ellis told the Texas Tribune: “My hope is that those that have opposed it in the past will come around.”
False Confessions & Mandatory Recording of Interrogations