Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich today will sign a bill making the state the nation’s first to require that formal interrogations and confessions of murder suspects be taped. Blagojevich called the measure, part of a six-bill package of wide-ranging criminal justice reforms, an important step toward restoring the integrity of a system tarnished by the exoneration of 13 death row inmates, the Chicago Tribune says.
The governor also will sign measures to ban racial profiling by law enforcement in traffic stops to and to require expungement of arrest records of those found later to be innocent. “When there is a system that can allow an innocent person to be sent to Death Row based on a questionable confession, we have a moral obligation to intervene,” Blagojevich said.
Death penalty reform advocates have long contended that false confessions have led to numerous convictions in capital-punishment cases that have later been overturned. Taping is required in two other states–Minnesota and Alaska–but as a result of court orders rather than legislative action.
Blagojevich said he was “not so sure” that the reforms “will make me feel comfortable that the death penalty can be implemented in Illinois without being prone to a mistake.” He has said he would maintain the moratorium on capital punishment begun by predecessor George Ryan in 2000. The governor’s signature on the profiling measure will add Illinois to a list of more than 30 states that have adopted laws or have agreed in consent decrees to require special training for police and monitoring of traffic stops.