Daily Archives: April 24, 2008

Cops coming round on videotaped interrogations

You must’ve heard the phrase “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it”. Some police departments have now tried it and may be sorry they knocked it. The Day has this article on the pilot program to videotape interrogations and the surprising (to some) results.

“The police are waking up to the fact that this is not the enemy, that it can be their best friend,” [Judge Kevin P.] McMahon said.

The police have long resisted being compelled to videotape interviews but apparently are seeing good results when they participate voluntarily.

“There has been, for quite a while, a positive reaction to it, but a recognition that we have to be careful and do it right,” said Kevin T. Kane, chief state’s attorney. Kane said there are many issues yet to be resolved, such as creating transcripts of the interviews, preserving the records and training investigators. He said one consideration will be whether the camera inhibits suspects from talking or investigators from using normal or lawful investigative techniques, two reasons police had resisted videotape in the past.

So how are some departments feeling about this?

The time for videotaping has come, said detective Lt. John Varone of the Groton Town Police Department. His department will be included in the second wave of the pilot program and will share its resources with departments east of the Thames River. In the home invasion/murder case, which Varone declined to discuss specifically, police used a camcorder. Eventually, the department’s interview room will be revamped to accommodate state-of-the-art video equipment.

“I think some of the defense attorneys are in for a huge, huge letdown when we do this,” Varone said. “Now they’re not going to be able to challenge us and say we tricked them (the suspect).”

Ugh. This is not a game of Gotcha!, Lt. Varone. I don’t wake up every morning hoping that some cop tricked my client somewhere so I can challenge the confession. We want transparency. The point of videotaping interrogations is precisely to see what cops are doing and to make sure that they don’t get a false confession because they’ve got your sights set on one man and can’t look beyond their nose.

Defense attorneys have long called for mandatory recording of interrogations.

“I think it adds transparency to the process that benefits everybody, both the defense and the state,” said New London attorney Matthew G. Berger. “It removes doubt about what happened.”

Public Defender extraordinaire Tom Ullmann wants to videotape interviews with witnesses.

“Juries are not stupid,” he said. “They don’t understand why this stuff can’t be taped. And from a police perspective, if you did the job correctly and you’ve got someone making a statement and have the whole interview process recorded, it’s going to be reliable.”

Ullman said juries will now be able to see “what police really did.” The courts have allowed police to use trickery and false statements during interrogations, he said, “but I think there is much more problematic stuff that goes on that would stop, such as (the police) suggesting what photo to pick out of a lineup.” In New Haven, Ullman said, the public defenders had a case where the detective whispered “numero dos” to help the eyewitness pick the correct photo.

I don’t know how The Day got this next bit of information, but it sure is juicy:

Defense attorneys regularly ask judges to suppress statements that are not recorded. On Wednesday, attorneys Richard Emanuel and Douglas Nash filed a brief with the state Supreme Court to overturn the conviction of Julian Lockhart, who was convicted in the beating death of Robert Glidden in Durham in 2002. The attorneys claim in the appeal that “the electronic recording of interrogations, advisements of rights and statements is constitutionally required when the interrogation occurs at a place of detention and recording is otherwise feasible.”

I bet that’s a State Constitution claim.

Connecticut criminal justice system reformed?

The question mark is because I can’t tell from this piece what the heck actually happened. Shoddy, shoddy writing.

Under pressure to respond after two deadly home invasions in the past nine months, the state Senate voted early this morning to strengthen the state’s criminal law and allocate $10 million for enhanced crime-fighting.

The bill passed by 32 to 3 at about 2:20 a.m. Thursday after the Senate Democrats withdrew a previous amendment that had prompted a sharply bitter debate with Republicans. The final version gained bipartisan support after lawmakers said the bill would authorize a judge to double the penalty following a second violent crime and triple the penalty after a third offense – up to a maximum of life in prison for a violent felon.

The debate on the three-strikes bill had the usual rhetoric from the Republicans that criminals are not being punished. The Dems responded with “bumper sticker politics”.

So what happened, exactly?

Earlier in the evening, the Republicans had verbally pummeled the original bill on the Senate floor, saying that it would actually weaken the state’s laws for violent crimes. Following that clash, Democrats — who hold the majority in the chamber — suddenly postponed the debate and called for a recess shortly before 11:30 p.m. The chamber reconvened later, and the “three strikes” debate pushed the vote past 2 a.m. Thursday.

“This is an extraordinary change in our public policy,” McDonald said, adding that criminals “will be punished in extraordinary ways.”

But Sen. John Kissel, an Enfield Republican, said the original bill was so badly written that it would not accomplish the legislature’s tough-on-crime goals and, in fact, would backfire.

“I guess I’m missing something,” Kissel said. “It actually is weaker addressing persistent dangerous felony offenders. … This amendment pushes us backward. How can this be tougher on criminals? It’s not.”

Out of 21 violent crimes mentioned in the original bill, the maximum prison sentence would actually be reduced for eight of them, Kissel said. That includes second-degree manslaughter with a firearm, among others.

Oh well, that’s interesting. Pray tell us, Courant, why these sentences would be reduced and what other crimes?

No? That’s not important to the narrative? Oh. Okay. Well, then tell us what the final version of the bill was.

Besides streamlining the law, the bill provides money for more prosecutors, public defenders and probation officers, along with expanding the state’s “cold case” unit and providing additional re-entry programs for criminals who are released from prison.

“So many people fail on probation,” said Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat. “So many people fail on parole.”

But McKinney said he was stunned when he read the original five-page bill. Currently, a criminal could receive 40 years in prison for compelling someone to have sex at gunpoint. The bill, crafted by Democrats, would reduce that penalty to 20 years, he said.

Wait. I’m confused. Is this the original version, the amendment that was scrapped or the final version? Don’t know? I don’t either. Good job there, Chris Keating, Capitol Bureau Chief. Now I know less than I did when I started reading your story.

Can you condense all of this into bullet points for stupid old me?

# $5,492,000 to improve supervision of sex offenders who are on probation, including upgraded lie-detector and global-positioning-system (GPS) technologies. The money also would be used for truancy prevention and helping officials serve warrants on probation violators.
# $2,147,000 to hire more parole officers and prison guards, along plus expanding the use of GPS technology to track criminals who are on parole.
# $910,000 for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to provide supportive housing and for improving the women’s jail-diversion program, among others.
# $681,000 to the Division of Criminal Justice for more prosecutors and better computers.
# $514,000 to hire more employees for the state police major crime squad.
# $252,000 to the Public Defender Service Commission for lawyers to handle more prosecutions and aide indigent criminals.

Yet nothing on penalties. Sigh.

Oh, by the way Chris Keating, Capitol Bureau Chief, the correct term would have been “indigent defendants“, not criminals. Unless, of course, this bill removed the presumption of innocence. Which I have no way of knowing whether it did or not, because I didn’t understand anything you wrote.

Anyone have a link to the actual bill that was passed?