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Mandating Taped Interrogations

January 18, 2023

“[A] focus on best practices to avoid undue coercion and false confessions would go a long way to improve the quality of justice in Pennsylvania,” writes the Quattrone Center’s Marissa Bluestine.

Marissa Bluestine, Assistant Director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, recently co-authored “To avoid false confessions, Pennsylvania needs to mandate taped interrogations,” published at PennLive. Bluestine’s co-author is Brandon Garrett, faculty director at the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke Law.

Bluestine joined the Quattrone Center after a decade leading the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a non-profit dedicating to securing exoneration for individuals wrongfully convicted of crimes. 

From PennLive:

William Kelly gave a written confession statement to police and pleaded guilty to murder of a woman whose body was found in 1990 in a landfill near Dauphin County. The case seemed straightforward, and it was closed. However, Kelly had an IQ of 69 and suffered from manic depression, alcoholism, and a history of blackouts.

He only agreed to plead guilty when the trial judge concluded that the confession statement would be admitted at trial. There was no recording of the police interrogation.

Three years later, Kelly was exonerated when another person facing trial for several other murders led investigators to the landfill where the victim’s body was found, along with the remains of two other people. DNA tests identified him as the culprit. Kelly had his conviction reversed. He is just one of 15 Pennsylvanians exonerated who falsely confessed.

Nationwide, recording police interrogations is an emerging best practice that creates a record of what happens behind the closed doors of an interrogation room. Too often, police engage in coercive conduct that can lead innocent people to falsely confess to crimes they did not commit. 30 states, along with Washington, D.C. and the federal government now require police to record custodial investigations… . 

Read the full piece at PennLive.