Illinois Jurors Mostly Favor Interrogation Taping

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Chicago jurors are mostly favorable about a new Illinois law that will require police interrogations to be taped in murder cases. The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times talked to members of two juries who acquitted men of murder last week after watching their videotaped confessions.

“I wished there had been more videotape of more of the proceedings,” juror Patricia Ann Riley told the Tribune. “We saw 12 minutes, and so it was very hard for me to look at this tape and judge how much of it was truth and how much of it was a lie.”

“You need more than just the videotape,” a juror in the trial of a man found not guilty in the killing of an off-duty Chicago firefighter told the Sun-Times “It just didn’t jibe, it didn’t support the evidence. Jurors like us are getting smarter.” The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said the jury watched the tape during the trial and at least two more times in deliberations. She said it would have helped if the interrogation had been taped as well as the confession, adding that she has heard of cases where people were exonerated even after confessing.

In the second case, a jury acquitted a man for the slaying of a man he believed was attacking a family member. A juror in that trial said the jury watched his confession during the trial and three other times, but it wasn’t enough. “Videotaping interrogations would have answered a lot of questions; it would have left little room for reasonable doubt,” the juror told the Sun-Times. “Videotaping interrogations would be fabulous; the law should have been passed long ago.”

Another juror, Susanne Sugrue, disagreed, telling the Tribune that showing the entire interrogation would be too time-consuming and might not convince some jurors, who seem to be predisposed not to trust police.

Two lawyers came down on the side of full taping. “Nothing should motivate the state and the Chicago Police Department more to begin taping interrogations from start to finish than these two cases,” said law Prof. Steve Drizin of Northwestern University. “Juries are sending a strong signal to law enforcement that merely taping the final confession isn’t going to be enough to secure a conviction.”

A defense attorney in one of the acquittals said he believed the new law on taping interrogrations would help. “The argument is going to be, `Are you going to tell me you’re going to have a jury watch 18 hours of videotape?'” he said. “Well, yeah. It’s a murder trial.”


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