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Police in New Jersey seem to be in step with the state Supreme Court’s 18-month-old mandate that all custodial interrogations in homicide cases be recorded, according to a new report by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The report, released Thursday, said that since inception of the requirement on Jan. 1, 2006, law enforcement officials recorded statements in 108 out of 111 homicide cases, and the three statements not recorded fell within the exceptions set by the Court. See Notice to the Bar. The Court first called for the recording of interrogations in State v. Cook, 179 N.J. 533 (2004), saying that whether an interrogation was recorded should weigh heavily in trial judges’ decisions on the admissibility of suspects’ inculpatory statements. After the Special Committee on the Recordation of Custodial Interrogations reported on the feasibility and desirability of recording statements, the Court issued its pronouncement that recording would be the rule. At first, recording was required only in cases involving homicides but since January has been expanded to all first- and second-degree crimes. The report released Thursday, however, involves only cases in which the defendants were charged with murder, aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter after Jan. 1, 2006. One of the nonrecorded statements was made by a juvenile who, at the time, was not a suspect, the report says. The other two nonrecorded statements were made spontaneously. Both are recognized by R. 3:17 as exceptions to the recording requirement. Trial judges have not ruled on the admissibility of the two adult statements, the report said, and the juvenile matter was not waived up to the Superior Court. “It is clear that law enforcement is complying with the Court’s Administrative Determination,” the AOC says in the report. The AOC notes that 59 cases were recorded using a combination of audio and video equipment. Twenty-eight cases involved the use of audio equipment only; in 21 cases video equipment was used. Since the recording requirement was expanded only this year, there is no meaningful data as to whether recording of statements has proved useful for other crimes, the AOC report says. When the Court heard oral arguments in Cook nearly four years ago, the justices left little doubt that they intended to make recording statements a condition on their admissibility. The defendant, Thomahl Cook, was interrogated for 30 hours before he finally confessed to the February 1998 murder of a 15-year-old girl. The unrecorded confession was admitted into evidence based solely on a report written by a detective who had earlier destroyed his notes. Cook’s lawyer, Assistant Deputy Public Defender Marcia Blum, urged the Court to follow the examples set by Alaska, Minnesota and Illinois, as well as Australia, Britain and Canada, all of which require recording to begin when a suspect is considered to be in custody. Blum, who also was a member of the Court’s committee, said Friday she had not had a chance to read the interim report and could not comment. When it required recording in homicide cases beginning in January 2006, the Court noted that law enforcement officials in states that already recorded statements expressed uniformly positive results.

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