Videotaping Confessions – Saul Kassin and David Thompson’s NYT op-ed

Read their op-ed here, describing why we should ensure that all interrogations are videotaped.

They note that in “When They See Us,” the scenes in which the Central Park Five are interrogated are fictionalized. While “the scenes depicting four of the young men being badgered into giving false confessions are hard to watch… they do not depict word-for-word what happened. That was impossible, because no video footage exists.”

There were hours of footage taken once the four agreed to confess – and those are incredibly hard to watch as well.  But the interrogation that produced the confessions was not taped.  The NYPD did not require videotaping at the time.

You can read transcripts from the trial and confession statements in the case at my resource website on DNA exonerations:

Kassin and Thompson note: “New York now requires the police to record the entire interrogation for serious crimes. But half the states have no such requirement, leaving the most critical of police procedures a mystery to prosecutors, judges, juries and the public alike.”

They also note:

The problem is not just that innocent people can be broken into capitulation; it’s that their narratives are often too compelling to disbelieve. When law professor Brandon Garrett analyzed 66 false confessions, he unearthed this startling fact: Most contained details about the crime that were spot-on accurate, often vividly so, and yet not known to the public. These confessors were all innocent; they didn’t know firsthand what happened. Whether purposeful or inadvertent, the detectives in these cases had communicated the facts during the interrogations — a process known as “contamination.”

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