On May 1, 2009, Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York, announced the creation of the New York State Justice Task Force—one of the first permanent task forces on wrongful convictions in the United States. The Justice Task Force was formed to study wrongful convictions, learn the causes of wrongful conviction, and propose recommendations to make wrongful convictions less likely to occur
Information about the Task Force, its mission and members, as well as its recommendations, can be found here.
Among other criminal justice proposals, the Task Force is unanimously recommending electronic recording of police interrogation because
recording can aid not only the innocent, the defense and the prosecution, but also enhances public confidence in the criminal justice system by increasing transparency as to what was said and done during the interrogation. Indeed, among its many benefits, recording helps identify false confessions; provides an objective and reliable record of what occurred during an interrogation; assists the judge and jury in determining a statement’s voluntariness and reliability; prevents disputes about how an officer conducted himself or treated a suspect, and serves as a useful training tool to police officers.
Over 800 jurisdictions nationwide, including the states of Alaska, Minnesota and Illinois, regularly record police interrogations. A 2004 study conducted by Illinois officials of 200 locations that implemented this reform found that police departments overwhelmingly embrace the measure as good law enforcement whose time has come. www.innocenceproject.org
Certainly recording of interrogation could have prevented the wrongful conviction of Jabbar Washington, whose case is discussed once again in the New York Times this morning.
But legislation to require recording of police interrogation is being blocked in New York by the recalcitrance of the NYC District Attorneys. Why don’t our district attorneys join collective efforts to improve the criminal justice system? Why shouldn’t New York be in the forefront of criminal justice reform? Why are we lagging behind?