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A trembling voice, sweating brow and shaking leg: When interviewing suspects, Jon Priest of the Denver Police Department considers these mannerisms to be indicators that he is being lied to. “You can’t articulate what that is,” he said. “But you know something is wrong with how they answered that question.” But Priest, a lieutenant, also has a backup that captures every word and movement: a video camera. And while the video camera helps Priest in the police station, it also provides jurors with an accurate account of how the interrogations occurred. Priest is not alone, according to a new, informal survey compiled by Tom Sullivan, a partner at Chicago’s Jenner & Block. Over the past year, Sullivan randomly contacted 238 departments in 38 states that tape their entire interview process, and collected comments on the departments’ experiences using recording devices during interrogations within the police station. Since most of the work on the issue has been done by defense attorneys and academics advocating the rights of defendants, Sullivan said he embarked on the study to enlighten law enforcement of the benefits of recording interrogations. Jurors expect video The report, which Sullivan acknowledges is not scientific , cited multiple benefits of using video cameras, such as a more accurate depiction of the confessions in court. Also, police departments have noted that the taping reduced motions to suppress testimony, including claims of coercion. The report by Sullivan�a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois�also notes that jurors are coming to expect recordings when questionings take place in police station interview rooms. “Most people now have grown up using video,” Priest said. “People have come to expect [us to use it].” Joseph Birkett, state’s attorney for DuPage County, Ill., said that while police officers may resist taping�because it has been presented by some as protection against corrupt law enforcement�ultimately the practice is a powerful tool. “A lot of police may have thought [recording] was shoved down their throat,” he said. “But let’s put those bad feelings aside. The main message is that it’s abundantly clear taping has been a good thing.” Currently four states�Alaska, Illinois, Maine and Minnesota�and the District of Columbia require the recording of interrogations. Legislation requiring videotaping is pending in a dozen other state legislatures, including Maryland, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Tennessee. Illinois was the first state to pass a law making recording a requirement for murder suspects. It will take effect in August 2005. New attention was focused on the issue after former Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted the death sentences of 167 inmates to life in prison in 2003, said Rob Warden, executive director at the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, which published Sullivan’s report. “[Recording] strengthens the process on both sides,” Warden said. “It reduces the likelihood of false confessions, and it virtually eliminates spurious motions to suppress.” But videotaping confessions and interviews is still a hot topic among defense counsel and prosecutors. Last week, the New York State Bar Association endorsed videotaping of routine custodial interrogations, despite opposition from the New York State District Attorneys Association. Michael A. Arcuri, president of the New York DAs Association and Oneida County district attorney, said he was concerned that the taping of homicide cases would eventually lead to the taping of all kinds of criminal cases, which, he said, would exhaust their resources and impede their prosecutions. “You are complicating something that is already very difficult�securing confessions,” he said. Also, he noted, defense attorneys will still challenge police decisions on what to tape and what not to tape. “Even if we do tape, it will never be enough,” he said. Deno Berndt, a Minnesota criminal defense attorney with Hellmuth & Johnson in Eden Prairie, said that as long as police officers have discretion as to when they start and stop taping, the method is unreliable. Berndt said taping has been beneficial in establishing if a suspect requests an attorney. But he feels taping has not had a significant impact in any other area.

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