I’ll be speaking about my book Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science (2012) this Thursday, Nov. 8 at the University of Minnesota Law School at 4:30 pm in Mondale Hall. My talk will be followed by a panel that includes Ramsay County Attorney John Choi and John Harrington, former chief of police in St. Paul and currently the police chief of the Metro Transit Police Department. The event is free and open to the public. The Law School is located at 229 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455.
Because I’ll be in the Twin Cities speaking about the book, let’s ask: how does Minnesota stand on the issues covered in Failed Evidence: faulty eyewitness identifications, false confessions, and basic types of forensic evidence?
A good place to start is with interrogations and false confessions. Minnesota was one of the first two states to require its police officers to record interrogations. Here’s the story.
In 1994, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided the case of State v. Scales. The evidence of the defendant’s guilt, including statements he made to the police, was overwhelming, and the Supreme Court did not overturn his conviction. But the justices used the case to require recording of interrogations in all future cases.
…[W]e hold that all custodial interrogation including any information about rights, any waiver of those rights, and all questioning shall be electronically recorded where feasible and must be recorded when questioning occurs at a place of detention. If law enforcement officers fail to comply with this recording requirement, any statements the suspect makes in response to the interrogation may be suppressed at trial.
Minnesota thus became the first state with a large population to require recording.
How did this mandate go over with law enforcement? By all reports, not so good at first; predictably, there was resistance and widespread prediction of a public safety crisis. But a funny thing happened on the way to this apocalypse: the police became big believers in recording interrogations when they figured out that doing so helped them get convictions and did away with bogus claims of constitutional violations by defendants. One quote, attributed to Neil Nelson, a former St. Paul police commander, shows up again and again: Nelson called recording of interrogations “the best tool ever shoved down our throats.”
If you are or were part of law enforcement in Minnesota, what are your thoughts about recording? Your experience gives your comments great value.