Saturday, 20 December 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Attorney General Holder Requires Recording of Interrogations, Unlike New York City

Saturday, 24 May 2014 10:44 By Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica | Report

2014 524 holder fwAttorney General Eric Holder (Photo: ryanjreilly / Flickr)

Truthout relies on reader support - click here to make a tax-deductible donation and help publish journalism with real integrity and independence.

Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered federal law enforcement agents to record all interrogations with suspects in custody.

The policy was outlined in a memo sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service.

It comes at a time when the recording of interrogations has become increasingly widespread among state and local law enforcement as a means to prevent false confessions and coercion.

Currently, 18 states require interrogations to be taped, along with hundreds of local police departments and prosecutors around the country.

But the practice is not currently required by law in New York, where the failure to record interrogations has factored into several high-profile murder cases.

Last year, ProPublica published an in-depth examination of the case against Pedro Hernandez, a man currently awaiting trial for the murder and kidnapping of a 6-year-old Etan Patz. Patz famously vanished while walking to his school bus stop in Manhattan in 1979. Hernandez confessed to the crime 33 years later in 2012, following an hours-long, unrecorded interrogation.

His lawyers say Hernandez was manipulated into a false confession. They note that he exhibits many of the problems that might lead someone to confess to something he didn't do: He has the IQ of a borderline retarded person, he is mentally-ill, and he confessed to a well-known crime, in which many of the facts are publicly known.

In January 2012, then New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance were members of a panel that called for mandatory taping in New York—but it hasn't been uniformly adopted or required.

A spokesperson for the New York Police Department did not immediately respond to questions about its policy on recordings.

Holder's new policy "establishes a presumption" that federal agents "will electronically record statements made by individuals in their custody." But it also includes some caveats: recording is not required while someone is being transported to detention even if they're being questioned during the trip, nor when suspects specifically request that they not be recorded, nor when questioning is "undertaken to gather national security-related intelligence."

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Joaquin Sapien

Joaquin Sapien has focused on environmental issues since he joined ProPublica in May 2008. In 2009 he was part of a team whose work on natural gas drilling won the Society of Professional Journalists award for online non-deadline investigative reporting. From 2005 until 2008 he was a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, where he led a year-long investigative project, “Superfund’s Toxic Legacy,” which received the 2007 Society of Professional Journalists award for non-deadline online reporting. Before joining CPI, Sapien wrote for Environmental Media Services.


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Attorney General Holder Requires Recording of Interrogations, Unlike New York City

Saturday, 24 May 2014 10:44 By Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica | Report

2014 524 holder fwAttorney General Eric Holder (Photo: ryanjreilly / Flickr)

Truthout relies on reader support - click here to make a tax-deductible donation and help publish journalism with real integrity and independence.

Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered federal law enforcement agents to record all interrogations with suspects in custody.

The policy was outlined in a memo sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service.

It comes at a time when the recording of interrogations has become increasingly widespread among state and local law enforcement as a means to prevent false confessions and coercion.

Currently, 18 states require interrogations to be taped, along with hundreds of local police departments and prosecutors around the country.

But the practice is not currently required by law in New York, where the failure to record interrogations has factored into several high-profile murder cases.

Last year, ProPublica published an in-depth examination of the case against Pedro Hernandez, a man currently awaiting trial for the murder and kidnapping of a 6-year-old Etan Patz. Patz famously vanished while walking to his school bus stop in Manhattan in 1979. Hernandez confessed to the crime 33 years later in 2012, following an hours-long, unrecorded interrogation.

His lawyers say Hernandez was manipulated into a false confession. They note that he exhibits many of the problems that might lead someone to confess to something he didn't do: He has the IQ of a borderline retarded person, he is mentally-ill, and he confessed to a well-known crime, in which many of the facts are publicly known.

In January 2012, then New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance were members of a panel that called for mandatory taping in New York—but it hasn't been uniformly adopted or required.

A spokesperson for the New York Police Department did not immediately respond to questions about its policy on recordings.

Holder's new policy "establishes a presumption" that federal agents "will electronically record statements made by individuals in their custody." But it also includes some caveats: recording is not required while someone is being transported to detention even if they're being questioned during the trip, nor when suspects specifically request that they not be recorded, nor when questioning is "undertaken to gather national security-related intelligence."

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Joaquin Sapien

Joaquin Sapien has focused on environmental issues since he joined ProPublica in May 2008. In 2009 he was part of a team whose work on natural gas drilling won the Society of Professional Journalists award for online non-deadline investigative reporting. From 2005 until 2008 he was a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, where he led a year-long investigative project, “Superfund’s Toxic Legacy,” which received the 2007 Society of Professional Journalists award for non-deadline online reporting. Before joining CPI, Sapien wrote for Environmental Media Services.


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