The New York State Bar Association has long supported the videotaping of custodial interrogations of criminal suspects, President Seymour W. James, Jr. said today.
"We welcome the announcement by New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly that the city plans to videotape the interrogations of suspects who are accused of murder, felony assault and sex crimes," said James (The Legal Aid Society in New York City). "Videotaping of interrogations has been shown to have a positive impact on preventing wrongful convictions of the innocent and securing convictions of the guilty.
"Videotaping interrogations will serve justice. It will help jurors get to the truth about what actually happened in the interrogation room-rather than relying on the sometimes conflicting testimony of the defendant and police officer," he said.
In 2004, the State Bar Association's House of Delegates urged the state Legislature to enact a law requiring the videotaping of custodial interrogations.
In 2006, the State Bar persuaded the Legislature to fund a $100,000 Association pilot project for the purchase of camera equipment in a limited number of locations in the state. In 2007, the Legislature approved a second grant of $100,000 to expand the pilot program.
Since then, the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, using state and federal funds, has allocated $2 million for purchasing equipment to expand the program to other localities.
In 2009, the State Bar's Task Force on Wrongful Convictions recommended the videotaping of custodial interrogations to ensure that innocent suspects were not improperly coerced to make false confessions and to support the validity of confessions by guilty suspects.
"We continue to urge the Legislature to require that custodial interrogations of criminal suspects be videotaped in their entirety," James said. "Videotaping of custodial interrogations will ensure that innocent suspects are not improperly coerced to make false confessions and will support the validity of confessions by guilty suspects."
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
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