To prevent false confessions, which have contributed to more than a quarter of the 330 DNA exonerations, nationally, the Innocence Project advocates that police departments video tape police interrogations so that juries can later determine if the confession was given voluntarily or was coerced. Yesterday, the National Science Foundation released a video explaining that the camera angle used in recording the interrogation can have an important effect on the ability of juries to accurately determine whether or not a confession was coerced.
The video features Ohio University psychology professor G. Daniel Lassiter who explains that when the camera is focused squarely on the suspect — with the interrogator either nowhere in sight or with only his or her back visible – viewers (i.e. jurors) are more likely to believe the suspect is making a voluntary statement regardless of whether or not the interrogator seems to be coercing the suspect.
However, according to Lassiter, when the camera is moved to a position where both the interrogator and suspect can be seen in profile, the bias toward believing that the suspect is making a willing statement is removed. Lassiter is working with prosecutors and state agencies to encourage them to adopt best practices that include better positioning of the camera when recording interrogations.