In Illinois, the governor has signed legislation expanding the requirement that police record interrogations.  According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the new law will require police to record interrogations in cases involving “any of eight violent felonies, including aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated battery with a gun and armed robbery.”

In 2003, after a spate of wrongful conviction in Chicago cases based on false confessions, Illinois enacted a law requiring that police must record all interrogations in homicide cases.  (This article reports on the passage of the earlier law.)  The law signed this year originally proposed extending the recording requirement to all cases, but it was watered down in response to opposition from prosecutors and police.

The law in Illinois on recording has what one could call an enforcement provision: no recording means (usually) the statement can’t be used.

…[A]n oral, written, or sign language statement of an accused made as a result of a custodial interrogation conducted at a police station or other place of detention shall be presumed to be inadmissable as evidence against the accused, unless an electronic recording is made of the custodial interrogation and the recording is substantially accurate and not intentionally altered…

With ten years of experience with the 2003 law, it is significant that further reforms were considered both needed and acceptable (at least at some level — law enforcement did not accept the need to record all interrogations).

Attorney Peter Neufeld, one of the founder of the Innocence Project, famously called Chicago the Cooperstown of false confessions.  (See his comments in a 60 Minutes interview here.)  Perhaps these continuing reforms can change Chicago’s reputation — at least a little bit.


  1. Paul Ruffolo says:

    David………I never received your promised response to a previous missive that I sent you.Be that as it may,I have followed your commentary on a variety of issues and I’m sorry to say I’ve been underwhelmed,to say the least.Please understand I am not trying to be disrespectful in any way,but I guess I’m just tired of these diatribes on issues in which you,and other attorneys et al.either don’t have all of the facts,or simply choose to manipulate the facts to your choosing.

    Chicago may have earned a bad reputation because of high crime in some areas,and some ineffective,inefficient,or inappropriate police work,but that is no different than many othermajor Metropolitan cities. It doesn’t make it right or desirable and it definitely needs improvement,however the question that begs to be answered is,”Where does this all come from?”Crime is high because there are bad guys who live in a number of neighborhoods.And for years,if the powers that be said to leave them alone,due to the constant lawsuits brought by money hungry attorneys,it resulted in the “Gangbangers” being left alone,much to thedetriment of the citizenry. Additionally,this constant issue of false confessions and videotaping same etc.has been blown way out of proportion.For the edification of the greaterunwashed masses,let me make it clear that offenders lieconstantly.They lie to the police……..They lie on the stand…….They lie anywhere and for any reason.But the attorneys etc.want to portray them as poor downtrodden individuals being victimized by society.Nothing could be farther from the truth.They are parasites on society that shoot and kill people,steal property, and commit a host of crimes that others seek to deny,simply so that they can allege that the police falsified their confession.It has gotten so ludicrous that recently another politician alleged that it’s the police who are shooting the children in the neighborhoods.Do you really believe that? Oh, I can assure you that when they point a gun at the police,they will probably get shot,because the officer has a right to use deadlyforce to protect himself.But that doesn’t happen everyday,thank God.And all of these “Justice “programs think that everyone has been incarceratedunjustly.In order to have the number of individuals incarcerated for serious crimes that we do here, there would have to be a huge number of mistakes,and as an educated man,you should know that simply is not true.Or perhaps you would prefer to say that everyone in jail is simply innocent and have never committed crimes.Do you honestly believe that?And the constant allegations that the police are stupid,don’t properly use evidence and make false arrests,is simply not true,and you know it.The formulation of Probable Cause in every case is well documented, and while wenow have the asssistance of DNA testingetc.We still need to use crime solving methodolgy to solve crimes.Bad guys need to go to prison and innocent people do not.And when everyone says that the “DNA” shows he’s not guilty.That is a misnomer.DNA only demonstrates that a SINGLEindividual may not have committed the crime,but only if there is no other offender or no alternate theory of the crime.Because if two offenders are involved in a rape and one person holds the victim down and the other perpetrates the act,you won’t find the other offender’s DNA in or on the victim and they will be charged with the same crime under accountability.The stop and frisk issues you recently commented on have become a problem for New York.That was a another allegation made by a judge who said that the police were misusing their authority.Now maybe SOME officers may have done so,but I have every reason to believe that the New York officers understand the tenets set forth in “Terry vs Ohio”, just like the rest of us do.And the oversight imposed in New York is pathetic,unwarranted and subjects officers and citizens to needless danger.Street stops were designed to allow officers to use “Reasonable Articualable Suspicion” to justify both the “Stop” and the “Frisk independantly.This isfor the officers safety and the officers ability to investigate crimes.Tosum it all up,society either has to “put up or shut up”.If you want the police to do their job legally,morally and ethically,which is how itshould always be done,then let the police do their job and support them.If you don’t wantthe crime to stop,keep making it easier for the miscreants to breakthe law,and harm innocent citizens……..You make the choice………….Take Care………God Bless……………… ………….and “Have a Nice Day”………………Respectfully Cmdr. Paul Ruffolo

    • Dear Cmdr: Ruffolo: I thought that I had replied to your earlier comments; my apologies if I did not. My fault.
      Your comments here are too long, too varied, and too filled with personal opinions for me to respond to in a comprehensive way. Some of what is here I agree with; some of it I don’t. So I will respond only to the comments on one issue, the one on which I wrote this post: false confessions and recording.

      You say that on this issue, Chicago “is no different than many other major Metropolitan cities.” I must disagree: the sheer number of the PROVEN wrongful convictions coming out of the Chicago PD based on false confessions is just larger than other, comparable departments. Check the statistics for yourself.

      You say that the important question “that begs to be answered is,”Where does this all come from?” Crime is high because there are bad guys who live in a number of neighborhoods.And for years,if the powers that be said to leave them alone,due to the constant lawsuits brought by money hungry attorneys,it resulted in the “Gangbangers” being left alone,much to the detriment of the citizenry.” In other words, the police department was intimidated out of enforcing the law by the threat of being sued. This simply is not true. I can’t believe any self-respecting Chicago police officer or Superintendent would agree with you, and there is simply no evidence to support your assertion. In Chicago, as in other cities, when the police department is sued and there is a resulting settlement or a verdict against the police department and damages must be paid, the police department does not pay those damages out of its budget. Instead they are paid out of a general fund (by Chicago’s taxpayers) or out of insurance. Thus there is no incentive to change department management, protocols, or behavior because of lawsuits. Many people think this is a problem; they think there should be an incentive to change when a police department is successfully sued. But there just isn’t. When an institution or an individual doesn’t pay, there is no reason to care.

      There is more in your post — for example, you ask, “perhaps you would prefer to say that everyone in jail is simply innocent and have never committed crimes.Do you honestly believe that?” No, of course I don’t believe that; no one who has any experience working in the system does. Since I never said anything remotely like that, I have the feeling that there is nothing I could say that would satisfy you. So I will just end my comments here.

  2. modemjunkie says:

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