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NY Times calls for recording of interrogations
Posted: January 14, 2008 11:12 am
“What did Martin Tankleff look and sound like when he confessed in 1988 to bludgeoning and slashing his parents to death?” the New York Times asks in a Saturday editorial. “We’ll never know. There is no video or audio recording, just an incomplete narrative, handwritten by detectives, which Mr. Tankleff signed, quickly repudiated, and spent nearly two decades trying to undo.”
DNA exonerations have proven that false confessions happen. In more than 25% of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing, a defendant confessed to a crime they didn’t commit. And electronic recording of interrogations prevents false confessions. Recording also aids prosecutors and law enforcement investigations – preserving a true account of an interrogation, allowing officers to focus on questions and not note-taking, and providing a training tool for future interrogations.
Illinois, Alaska and Minnesota – along with more than 500 local jurisdictions – record interrogations in some or most investigations. A bill stalled in the New York legislature last year, and the Times calls for passage of recording legislation this year.
The Tankleff case and the recent high-profile exoneration of Jeffrey Deskovic, who spent 16 years in prison for a rape and murder he confessed to but did not commit, both argue strongly for fixing this glaring flaw in New York’s justice system.Download the Innocence Project’s 2007 report on critical reforms to the New York criminal justice system.
Read the full editorial here. (New York Times, 01/13/08)
Read more about Marty Tankleff’s case.
Read more about Jeffrey Deskovic’s case.
Does your state have a law requiring recording of interrogations? Find out in our interactive map.
Tags: Alaska, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Jeff Deskovic, False Confessions, Marty Tankleff
Alaska op-ed: Save biological evidence before it's too late
Posted: April 10, 2008 5:05 pm
None of the 215 people exonerated by DNA testing would have been cleared if their evidence had been tossed in a dumpster, and they are certainly not the only people ever convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. Alaska is one of 18 states that has not had a person exonerated by DNA evidence. Is that because Alaska only convicts the guilty? Or is it because defendants challenging their convictions learn that the evidence is gone and there’s no chance for testing?
Bill Oberly, the interim director of the Alaska Innocence Project, wrote in yesterday’s Anchorage Daily News that state lawmakers should ensure that biological evidence from crime scenes is saved:
The Alaska Innocence Project is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals incarcerated by the State of Alaska and to work to prevent wrongful convictions in the future. As part of this work, the Alaska Innocence Project proposes legislation that mandates preservation of evidence collected during an investigation and used to convict a person.
In this emerging era of DNA evidence, the power and usefulness of such evidence increases daily. Not only can innocence claims like that of Charles Chatman be settled but cold cases with no suspects can be solved. To make any good of this work, however, the evidence must be preserved.
Innocent people should not be in jail for crimes they did not commit, and guilty people should not be able to go free at the expense of those wrongfully convicted. The Alaska Innocence Project is working to bring Alaska forward to where 27 other states and the federal government have moved. For the sake of even one Alaskan like (Texas exoneree) Charles Chatman, the Alaska Innocence Project urges the Legislature to pass an evidence preservation statute as soon as possible.
Read the full op-ed here. (Anchorage Daily News, 04/09/2008)
U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Case on Access to DNA Testing
Posted: November 3, 2008 5:00 pm
The U.S. Supreme Court said today that it will review an Alaska case on whether defendants have the right to DNA testing that can prove innocence.
The Innocence Project represents William Osborne, who was convicted of rape and related charges in 1994. The state has fought motions for DNA testing that could prove Osborne’s innocence. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that Osborne has a constitutional right to DNA testing, but the state appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.
If the new testing shows that Mr. Osborne was indeed guilty, prosecutors should be pleased, the Ninth Circuit said. And if the testing points to his innocence, prosecutors should still be pleased, because the state’s paramount interests are in “seeking justice, not obtaining convictions at all costs,” and the tests will yield better evidence to catch and convict “the real perpetrator.”Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said today that the state has no justification to deny DNA testing when it can prove guilt or innocence. In a statement issued today, Scheck said:
Read the New York Times report on the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case here.
“The State of Alaska concedes that DNA testing could prove William Osborne’s innocence, while fighting his right to testing. Why would anyone be afraid to learn the truth in this case? There is no rational reason to deny DNA testing that could prove innocence or confirm guilt.Learn more about access to post-conviction DNA testing.
“We believe that people clearly have a constitutional right to post-conviction DNA testing when it can prove innocence. Many courts have recognized this right, and we’re optimistic that the Supreme Court will affirm it if they reach that question in this case.”
Tags: Alaska, Access to DNA Testing