More Suspects Videotaped; Some Skepticism Remains


After resisting the practice for years, more police agencies nationwide are videotaping interviews with suspects, sometimes with surprising results, reports the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore County prosecutors gained a first-degree murder conviction last year after a suspect in the shotgun killing of an educator confessed in a taped interview. His attorney says prosecutors dropped efforts to secure the death penalty after he argued that his client’s obvious remorse on the video would arouse the sympathies of jurors. Among the large police departments that use video recording are Los Angeles, Denver, and Washington, D.C. Of the more than 450 law enforcement agencies in 43 states interviewed for a study, the overwhelming consensus is “they absolutely love it.”

A bill pending in the state legislature would make the statement of a defendant in a violent crime inadmissible unless it is electronically recorded. Some police remain leery of having their work taped and replayed for jurors and others. “It sounds idyllic, a prosecutor’s dream,” said Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office. “But it would probably be very difficult to implement in the city.” She said it is unclear how useful videotaping would be because most violent offenders in the city “know it’s to their advantage not to say anything.” Burns said her office, which prosecutes 115 homicide cases a year, doesn’t have the resources to deal with video recordings.


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