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Old 06-09-2003, 12:31 PM
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Default New laws mum on how cops to record interrogations


New legislation that could lead to videotaped interrogations of 1st-degree
murder suspects in Illinois does not say how the tapes should be made,
which could leave the process biased against the accused, scholars say.

"If a camera is focused on the person making a statement, the perception
is they are more responsible for the statement, that it is more
voluntary," said G. Daniel Lassiter, an Ohio University psychology
professor who has conducted experiments and co-written several studies on
the issue over the past 20 years.

Illinois judges attending a seminar here said the procedures for recording
interrogations should be addressed to prevent false or coerced confessions
that lead to convictions, such as those of Steven Linscott or Gary Gauger,
2 Illinois cases that helped former Gov. George Ryan decide in January to
empty the state's death row.

"People haven't been thinking about how interrogation is going to be taped
(in Illinois), and they should because research shows it makes a
difference," said Judge Warren Wolfson of the state's First District
Appellate Court.

One bill passed by the Illinois General Assembly this spring mandates
taping interrogations of suspects in 1st-degree murder cases, but delays
the effective date for 2 years.

Another bill on Gov. Rod Blagojevich's desk sets up a pilot taping program
- either audio or video - to be operated by 4 police agencies across the
state during that 2-year period.

But neither bill specifies how the recording should be done. The bill
establishing the pilot program leaves it up to each police agency to
decide in cooperation with the local state's attorney's office.

Parameters needed

Illinois State's Attorney's Association President John Piland of Champaign
County said prosecutors will work with police to develop procedures for
taping and acknowledged that camera angle may be an important factor.

A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department also says officials there
will consider how to place cameras for recording. "Obviously there has to
be some parameters," said Circuit Judge Larry Heiser of Macomb.

"I certainly think it's got to be thought about whether it should be a
uniform procedure or whether it would be appropriate to let each agency
come up with its own procedure."

Heiser, Wolfson and more than 5 dozen other judges from trial and
appellate courts focused on interrogations and confessions at the Illinois
Judicial Academy here last week. Many came away believing the recording
process could be as important as the recording itself.

"Innocents are at risk in the interrogation room because they are presumed
guilty" by police officers, said Saul Kassin, a psychology professor at
Massachusetts' Williams College who also has studied the effects of
videotaping the interrogation of suspects. Kassin said allowing judges and
juries to consider all the circumstances of a confession will make
interrogators better, will prevent defense lawyers from making frivolous
claims of coercion and will help judges and juries determine the facts
during a trial.

Kassin and Lassiter argue for cameras to be placed so that the faces of
both the interrogator and the suspect are in view. "If we're going to use
videotape, it should be equal focus perspective," Lassiter said. "We need
to try to prevent the bias from ever being introduced in the courtroom
situation." New Zealand has adopted the profile view of both suspect and
interrogator as national policy for taping interrogations, Lassiter said.

The bills are SB15 and SB472. On the Net General Assembly:

(source: Suburban Chicago News)
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