In a videotape, Kevin Fox of Illinois implicated himself last year’s murder of his 3-year-old daughter. He was released Friday after DNA tests cleared him and charges against him were dropped. The Chicago Tribune says the Fox case is another example of how videotaping confessions–without also taping the interrogations that led up to them–can produce results that are misleading, if not altogether false.
Beginning next month, state law will require police across Illinois to videotape interrogations in all murder investigations. The change comes after a long national record of false confessions, including false videotaped confessions. The cases include Corethian Bell of Chicago, who was exonerated by DNA in early 2002 of killing his mother; and the New York Central Park jogger case, in which five men admitted the crime on videotape only to be exonerated later. How successful the law will be in eliminating false confessions will depend on how strictly judges enforce it and how they interpret numerous exceptions. What may not change with the law is the view that, in the world of evidence, the confession is king.