By: Shmuel Edeltuch

An age-old tactic used by law enforcement to get a confession from a suspect may soon come to an abrupt end. A bill has been introduced by State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Bklyn) the bill’s sponsor, along with four other Democrat co-sponsors.

The tactic involves lying to the suspect in hopes of gaining a confession, possibly under duress. The purpose of the bill said Sen. Myrie is “To provide increased protections against false confession and/or false incrimination by individuals subject to interrogation, and to provide for the collection of data concerning recorded interrogations”.

Myrie made the argument that “Our justice system should be based on basic principles of fairness and transparency”, and that “When defendants are under interrogation, however, our current law allows law enforcement to use deceptive practices and to do so in unrecorded interactions. While many interactions between law enforcement and the accused may not involve such deception, the consequences for instances where it does occur are dire. These practices have led to coerced confessions which can wrongfully imprison innocent citizens or provide the improper basis for additional charges. The ability of the government to deny an individual their liberty is one of its most sobering powers and the exercise of that power should not be based on deception.”

He also made the argument that this tactic has led to many wrongful convictions. He brought a largely infamous example where in 1989 where five teenage men were wrongly convicted of a crime and Today, they are widely known as the “Exonerated 5,” but it took thirteen years in prison and the DNA evidence of the real perpetrator to overturn their wrongful convictions a conviction, which he argued would never have taken place under today’s proposed bill.

The bill ended with a closing statement that “Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and that proof should not include evidence tainted by a false confession. Recording interrogations and prohibiting deceptive practices in the process is a step in the right direction that will put New York at the forefront of fairness and transparency in the justice system”.

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Shmuel Edeltuch

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