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The Use of Electronic Recordings of Serious Felony Interrogations to Prevent False Confessions

After years of false confessions and wrongful convictions, several groups have put in great efforts to research and promote that custodial interrogations be electronically recorded.

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice was established by California State Senate Resolution No. 44 "to study and review the administration of criminal justice in California, determine the extent to which that process has failed in the past," and to provide recommendations and proposals which would ensure that the administration of criminal justice in California is fair.

The Commission gathered their information by studying reports from commissions of other states and tasks forces addressing the same issue, and research documenting 125 cases of false confessions by suspects who were indisputably proven to be innocent. In addition, in June of 2006 a public hearing was held in Los Angeles, to hear the testimony of acknowledged experts, the exonerated victims of false confessions, the mother of the victim of a crime in which a false confession was elicited, representatives of police, prosecutor and criminal defense agencies, and concerned citizens.

An example of this occurrence is the Harold Hall case. Hall spent nineteen years in prison for a rape and double murder he did not commit in Los Angeles. When he was 18, he was subjected to seventeen hours of interrogation, and ultimately confessed thinking that was the only way he could end the interrogation. In 2004 he was exonerated by DNA testing that proved his innocence. While in prison, he earned his G.E.D. and is now employed by the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

Some people may not believe or understand the possibility of innocent people confessing to the commission of serious crimes, but all the research provides a great amount of evidence that this really does occur and more often then people think. For this reason, the Commission created proposals suggesting that:
1. Interrogations for serious felonies be electronically recorded;
2. Cautionary Instruction Required: if a statement is admitted in evidence in any criminal proceeding and was no electronically recorded, the court will, at the request of the defendant, provide the jury with an instruction in a form to be recommended by the California Judicial Council.
3. Handling and preservation of electronic recordings of custodial interrogations relating to a serious felony.

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