In the New York City area, the story of Martin Tankleff is well known. Tankleff, at 17, was questioned without being informed of his Miranda rights about the brutal deaths of his parents, and was duped into confessing by a Suffolk, L.I., homicide detective, who falsely said that Tankleff’s father had awakened and accused him, Newsday reports. Tankleff refused to sign the confession and recanted it. What happened in the interrogation room remains in dispute.
Less well-known is that detectives could have recorded that interrogation but didn’t. Police department policy called for a videotaped statement only after questioning produced a signed confession. Now, with Tankleff’s conviction overturned and all charges likely to be dropped, some lawmakers and Tankleff’s advocates say interrogations should be recorded so juries can decide whether confessions are coerced. At least nine states now require the recording of police questioning. In New York State, a push for a similar law stalled last year. In 2005, the Chicago Police Department installed a $4-million video recording system in 36 interrogation rooms. Since then, Deputy Chief of Detectives Michael Chasen said, fewer confessions are thrown out before trial, and complaints and lawsuits against police have decreased. On the other hand, juries are often put off by detectives who yell at suspects or trick them on camera, though such tactics are legal.