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Florida panel recommends taped interrogations

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The Florida Innocence Commission, a panel established in July 2010, recently voted to recommend that police officers record all suspect statements in violent felonies.

“One of the benefits of recording is, you can go back and look exactly at how the questions were asked, the nuances,” pointed out FIC’s executive director, Lester Garringer, Jr.

The panel was convened to investigate the causes of wrongful convictions in the state.  The panel released a report stating there are five main causes of wrongful convictions: eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, informants and jailhouse snitches, invalidated or improper scientific evidence, and professional responsibility and accountability.

Four out of Florida’s 12 DNA exonerees gave false confessions. The Innocence Project has recommended specific changes in the practice of suspect interrogations in theU.S., including the mandatory electronic recording of interrogations, which has been shown to decrease the number of false confessions and increase the reliability of confessions as evidence.

In December, the panel will discuss potential reforms regarding officers who lie and intimidate suspects during interrogations.

Kenneth Nunn, a professor at the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, said “Pounding a suspect with questions for hours and lying to him, for example telling him they’ve found his fingerprints when they haven’t, can lead an innocent person to confess.”  Nunn suggests that officers should be limited to questioning a defendant for a maximum of six hours in a row. 

However, Circuit Judge Belvin Perry Jr., chief judge of Orange and Osceola counties and chairman of the panel, pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that officers are free to lie.

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