More than Meets the Eye—A Case for Careful Use of Video

The trend to reduce the number of false confessions resultant from poorly or wrongly obtained evidence and witness testimony has gained significant momentum over the last year. In fact, most recently, the Federal policy to authorize and require Federal agencies to use electronic recording equipment in conducting interrogations has catapulted the story into wide view. Nonetheless, the case for careful use of video both in how it’s acquired and how it’s portrayed in court must be made.

False Confession: Let’s Define It

To start, let’s take a look at what a false confession is. Essentially a false confession is when someone admits they are guilty for a crime when in fact he or she is not.

Why Do People Confess When Not Guilty?

When people read about false confessions in the news, they often scratch their heads and ask why. OR they might chalk it up to a coerced confession. What’s surprising is the frequency at which false confessions occur. To curb the high number of false confessions, many steps have been taken including the establishment of confession rules as well as more recently a more widespread use of electronic audio and video recording.

Before the 1980’s the standard rule was to gather confession evidence for trial in either a written or audiotaped format. This is a fairly substantial change from today’s current practice, where at least one agency or department in all 50 states voluntarily records interrogations making up an estimate of over 50% of departments video recording.

Videotaped Confessions Provide three Key Benefits:

  1. More complete and objective record of the suspect and police interaction
  2. A Visual representation of the interview
  3. A Deterrent against coercive methods

Why How It’s Portrayed Matters

Recently we talked about the importance of the camera angle when it comes to capturing content in a video-recorded interrogation. Two other factors that are equally important when it comes to influencing a jury include the police investigator’s mindset and racial saliency, topics which we will pick up more in depth next month.

In short, the mindset of the investigator is critical for obvious reason, but perhaps what is most noteworthy is that many in the police force receive little no training when it comes to interviewing and interrogation training. Without this training, they model their techniques by their colleagues or develop their own system. Unfortunately, this can lead to poor techniques which can lead to false confessions and a wide array of inefficiencies during the course of a case.

Racial saliency refers to perspectives maintained by jurors regarding race that they themselves may not even be aware of. Identifying if this is an area that could become problematic in a case is important when focusing on obtaining an interrogation.

You might have perfect equipment to capture the key points and conversation, but if the mindset of either the police or the jurors has been affected by outside forces, you might still arrive an unfair or wrongful conviction.

It’s still important to ensure you are relying on the most objective, accurate record, however, which is why iRecord continues to add value to departments and agencies nationwide. Contact us today to learn more!

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