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Recorded interrogations will now be required at the F.B.I.

Groups like the Innocence Project have identified false confessions as one of leading causes of wrongful conviction. Most juries become convinced of a suspect’s guilt when prosecutors say they have proof that the suspect confessed to an alleged crime during interviews with law enforcement.

But the extent to which a suspect “confesses,” the body language conveyed and the circumstances surrounding the interrogation are all important details that could say as much as the actual words spoken by the suspect. This is why it is important to videotape interrogations and especially confessions. Determining whether the suspect “confessed” while intoxicated, under duress or without knowledge of what they were accused of are all crucial to mounting a successful criminal defense strategy.

In the post we wrote last week, for instance, a Louisiana man spent 34 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of homicide. His conviction was largely based on his supposed confession. But what the jury may not have known is that the defendant had allegedly been supplied with drugs and alcohol prior to or during the four hours of interrogation. Signs of intoxication would likely have been visible if the interrogation had been videotaped.

Thankfully, many state and local jurisdictions around the country have changed their policies to either allow videotaping or to make it mandatory. And late last month, The U.S. Justice Department announced that videotaping interrogations and confessions will now be standard practice for federal agencies including the F.B.I., the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service.

We must hope that this policy change will ultimately reduce the number of wrongful convictions caused by false and improperly obtained confessions. When someone’s very freedom is at stake, any tool that could prove their innocence or cast doubt upon their guilt is an invaluable asset.

Source: The New York Times, "In Policy Change, Justice Dept. to Require Recording of Interrogations," Michael S. Schmidt, May 22, 2014

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

Joshua S. Guillory

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