FOR IMMIDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: ANITA Aboulafia
(212) 267-6646, ext. 225 (phone)
(212) 406-9252 fax
NYCLA’S REPORT ON VIDEOTAPING OF CUSTODIAL INTERROGATIONS APPROVED BY ABA’S HOUSE OF DELEGATES
February 9, 2004 – NEW YORK, NY – The New York County Lawyers’ Association’s (NYCLA) Report urging that the practice of videotaping custodial interrogations be mandated was approved today by the American Bar Association’s (ABA) House of Delegates at its February Midyear Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. “The Report on the Electronic Recording of Police Interrogations,” had already been approved by the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section.
“This is an extremely important initiative,” stated Michael Miller, President of NYCLA. “By recording interrogations, definitive records will be created that will help ensure confessions are obtained without coercion or inappropriate conduct by law enforcement officers.”
“The number of documented injustices is irrefutable,” affirmed Norman L. Reimer, President-Elect of NYCLA. “The problem is far more pervasive than a few high-visibility death penalty cases. Ultimately, the proposed procedure is as much a benefit for law enforcement as it is for the defense, as the recording of a custodial interrogation in its entirety is as much a palliative against false claims of coercion as it is for questionable police interrogation practices.”
According to Eugene Nathanson, former Co-Chair of NYCLA’s Civil Rights Committee (the group that researched and 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, 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 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender. 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.
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NEWS ALERT: On Monday, March 1, at 6:00 PM, NYCLA hosts a public forum, BEWARE OF FALSE CONFESSIONS! Should all Custodial Interrogations be Videotaped?, featuring Hon. Richard A. Brown, Queens DA; Christopher Dunn, Associate Legal Director, NYCLU; Hon. Amy Klobuchar, County Attorney, Hennepin County, Minnesota; Russell Neurfeld, Attorney in Charge, Legal Aid Society; a retired NYPD homicide detective; and others who will discuss this and other related issues. (See attached flyer)