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New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced last week that the department will begin a policy of videotaping custodial interrogations in murder, serious sex crimes, and felony assault cases. This comes after the New York State Legislature failed to pass legislation requiring videotaping statewide, as recommended by a task force created by Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the Court of New York. The New York Times
praised the initiative in an editorial yesterday (here
Commissioner Kelly noted a benefit that is becoming a factor for professionals in the criminal justice system, namely, that videotaping interrogations can “enhance public confidence in the criminal justice system by increasing transparency as to what was said and done.”
It has long been known that people with mental disabilities are more vulnerable to giving a false confession. As reported in the Durango Herald (Colorado) here, a 2008 study revealed “53 cases of serious felonies to which people with intellectual disabilities confessed and were later legally exonerated.” DNA and other proof of innocence sometimes came after years of imprisonment.
One example: a man with an IQ of 56 confessed to the murders of six women and served 22 years before DNA excluded him as the perpetrator.
The article explains, “People with intellectual Continue reading
Exoneree Ted Bradford from Washington State spoke about his experience on false confessions last Friday at the Annual Conference for Washington Defender Association.
On September 29, 1995, a woman was raped in her home in Yakima, Washington. Six months later, on April 1, 1996, Bradford was arrested on an unrelated charge.
The detectives interrogated Bradford for over eight hours and obtained his confession to the crime. Only the last 38 minutes of the interrogation was recorded, after Bradford had finally confessed to the crime he did not commit.
“I don’t know why I confessed”, Bradford said, “I just wanted to be out of that situation. I wish I could take my confession back, but I can’t. Continue reading
In most endeavors a costly mistake results in immediate efforts to identify what went wrong and how it can be prevented. Curiously, in the criminal justice system, officials too often respond to the tragic error of convicting an innocent with defensiveness and denial. Such miscarriages of justice should prompt important improvements in the system, but these will be derailed or hard won until Americans clarify our expectations of officials after justice stumbles.
Following a wrongful conviction, public officials can go a long way toward restoring trust in the system by following a 7-step process—mandated by both decency and public relations 101—that includes (1) honestly acknowledging that a Continue reading
Federal Judge Elaine Bucklo has denied prosecutorial immunity to former Illinois Assistant State Attorney Mark Lukanich in a law suit brought by Ronald Kitchen who spent 21 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Kitchen’s confession was extracted during the reign of disgraced imprisoned former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, notorious for torturous interrogations. Kitchen says that Lukanich was aware of his torture because he was nearby during the interrogation. The judge has ruled that Lukanich’s alleged role was part of the investigative part of the case and therefore not covered by prosecutorial absolute immunity.
Nearly a year ago, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, Judge Bucklo wondered aloud why the City of Chicago had sent an army of lawyers to fight the law suit brought by Kitchen. “I don’t understand this case. Why don’t you settle? [Kitchen] was declared innocent. Burge is in jail. Have you tried to settle this?” she asked. The Tribune editorialized that the longer Chicago refuses to settle multiple cases relating to the coerced confessions, the more the reputation of the city would suffer.