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NEW YORK, NY- JUNE 21, 2004 – A joint resolution proposed by the New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) and the Criminal Justice Section of the New York State Bar Association calling for all law enforcement agencies to videotape in their entirety the custodial interrogations of crime suspects, or audiotape if videotaping is impractical, has been adopted by the NYSBA at its House of Delegates meeting held in Cooperstown, NY, Saturday.


The report, titled “The Report on the Electronic Recording of Police Interrogations,” was researched and written by NYCLA’s Civil Rights Committee and approved by the American Bar Association earlier this year.


According to a recently released survey of more than 200 law enforcement agencies in 38 states, recording interrogations saves time and money and serves as compelling evidence. The survey, which was conducted by the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, found that the taping of interrogations is relatively uncommon, with 238 police departments taping entire interrogations in serious cases out of 18,000 state and local law enforcement units nationwide.


Norman L. Reimer, President of NYCLA and a criminal defense attorney, said, “NYCLA’s report, which surveyed defense attorneys and academics, and Northwestern University’s study, which focused on people in law enforcement, have come to the same conclusion. The number of documented injustices is irrefutable and the problem is far more pervasive than a few high visibility death penalty cases.”


NYSBA President Kenneth G. Standard of Chappaqua (Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP) said, “The unanimous vote by the House of Delegates affirms our belief that videotaping can protect the innocent, help convict the guilty and uphold the public’s faith in our criminal justice system. As a society, we have an interest in bringing criminals to justice and as a society we have no legitimate interest in concealing abusive interrogations that lead to false confessions.”


According to Eugene Nathanson, former Co-Chair of NYCLA committee that wrote the report, “While it seems highly unlikely that an innocent person who has not been coerced would confess to a crime, numerous false confessions have been documented and certain interrogation techniques, designed to elicit a true confession from a suspect who starts out denying culpability, can have the effect of inducing a false confession.”


In New York State, a substantial number of confessions are currently recorded on videotape; however, interrogations are not. Detectives interview subjects and, if a major crime is admitted, an Assistant District Attorney then records the confession on videotape.


The practice of recording interviews has been required by judicial opinion in Alaska since 1985 and in Minnesota since 1994. It has been adopted voluntarily by many police departments throughout the U.S. A number of proposals regarding the practice have been introduced in the New York City Council and New York State Legislature, as well as in legislatures in Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut, Oregon, Washington and Missouri. (Only the New York and District of Columbia bills require videotaping; all others only require some form of electronic recording.)


The New York County Lawyers’ Association was founded in 1908. Since its inception, NYCLA has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.


The 72,000-member New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary association in the nation. Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for 125 years.


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