Electronically recording interviews or interrogations aren’t going to in and of themselves prevent false or coerced confessions, but what they are able to do dramatically impacts what goes on in the court room—they help to improve speed to trial, the speed of the trial, among other things.
There are many advantages that electronic recording systems when it comes to criminal cases, but some of the most widely reported and collected in The Constitution Project (2014) on Custodial Interrogations include:
- Drastic reduction of false confessions in homicide cases
- Enabling judges to assess voluntariness of confession
- Facilitate fact-finder’s ability to evaluate credibility of confession
- Decreasing the number of challenges to witness statements
Won’t Recording Interrogations Lead the Guilty to Clam Up?
Groups that stand in opposition to the use of recording devices present the argument that the equipment might impede officers from getting valuable confessions and admissions from the guilty, but research shows the opposite—that even when known to the suspect, the use of electronic recording equipment does not impede or otherwise stop officers from being able to obtain either.
Consider the following major benefits the study highlights that electronically recording interviews deliver:
- Viewers Have an Objective Record: “Police are not called upon to paraphrase statements or try later to describe suspects’ words, actions, and attitudes. Instead, viewers and listeners see and/or hear precisely what was said and done, including whether suspects were forthcoming or evasive, changed their versions of events, and appeared sincere and innocent or deceitful and guilty. Experience shows that recordings dramatically reduce the number of defense motions to suppress statements and confessions.
- Instant Replay Saves Time: Officers are spared from defending themselves against allegations of coercion, trickery, and perjury during hostile cross examinations. [Also note that] trial and appellate judges, who repeatedly have been forced to listen to the prosecution and defense present conflicting versions of what took place during unrecorded custodial questioning, also favor recordings. An electronic record made in the station interview room is law enforcement’s version of instant replay.
- Growing Trend of Use: Jurors are coming to expect recordings when questioning takes place in police station interview rooms. When no recordings are made, defense lawyers are quick to argue that unfavorable inferences should be drawn.
- Longterm Savings: Most costs come from the front end, and they diminish once the equipment and facilities are in place and training has been given to detectives. In contrast, savings continue so long as electronic recording continues.
- Telling the Same Story: Without video recordings, police and criminal defendants may tell very different stories about what happened in the interrogation room, raising difficult credibility questions.
In all, the more research that is done and collected on the subject, the more findings show the benefits to using electronic recording equipment in custodial interrogations.
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