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In September, the New Jersey attorney general’s office filed an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court opposing any new rule that would require criminal confessions and interrogations to be taped. Such a policy would be “sweeping,” “extreme” and “untenable,” the brief said, and would “plunge us into a new legal world heedless of all concerns.” New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey recently announced, however, that he was taking that plunge. The new policy, not yet written, will require law enforcement officers to tape some or all statements of suspects questioned at police stations, jails or prosecutors’ offices. Such a reform would be the most significant change to the field of criminal investigation in New Jersey since the advent of DNA analysis. The logistical problems-new taping devices will need to be installed in hundreds of offices and police departments-will be dwarfed only by the cost: No one has priced it out, but the bill will be in the millions of dollars, prosecutors say. And in the next few weeks, as those practical details are hammered out, prosecutors and their opposition in the defense bar will begin maneuvering to influence its content. Three prosecutors recently told the New Jersey Law Journal, a sister publication of The National Law Journal, that their colleagues will likely urge that the rule only require that a suspect’s final confession be recorded. Criminal defense lawyers, by contrast, are keen to see the tapes start rolling as early as possible, preferably as soon as a suspect sits at the desk in the interrogation room for the so-called preinterview. Harvey’s conversion to the cause of taping statements appears to have occurred in the past few weeks. Indeed, in an interview in August, he said, “I haven’t thought about it as thoroughly as I need to, [but] I want to read some cases where courts have explored the issue . . . . [I]t’s something we will give attention to at some point in the future.” Harvey’s skepticism was due in part to the exonerations in a heavily publicized New York case in which four youths had been convicted of the rape and assault of a Central Park jogger, he said. “They all confessed on videotape and it was determined to be false. So electronic recording doesn’t guarantee that the statements you get are accurate-or true,” he said. Oral argument before the state Supreme Court on Nov. 5 appears to have given Harvey a change of heart. A majority of the justices indicated from the outset that they saw no reason not to make the recording of statements de rigeur.

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