Following the release of three other criminal justice reform bills, one state lawmaker seeks to require more recording of interrogations.
Interrogations are often used as evidence in court, to provide accurate recollections of what happened during a crime.
But according to State Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown (D-New Castle), most interrogations in Delaware aren’t recorded.
“We have seen how sometimes people don’t know what happens in that interrogation room, it’s really like one person’s word against the other,” Minor-Brown said “We’ve also seen how people have been falsely accused, falsely sentenced and then 20, 30 years down the line, they’ve fought their case and they’re being released from prison — they never should have been there in the first place.”
Minor-Brown adds recorded interrogations protect the police and the person in custody. Her bill provides a few exemptions to recording, and if those aren’t met, the interrogation is inadmissible in court.
“So we just wanna make sure that this is just a plain old interrogation where that officer is questioning that person on the events that took place and that is it, nothing else,” she said. “No body language, nothing threatening on either side.”
She adds the goal is to remove any doubts that either side may have about the interrogation, and ensure the process is fair. That in turn will help avoid sending people to prison for a crime they didn't commit.
27 states and the District of Columbia require custodial interrogations to be recorded. Minor-Brown says she wants Delaware to join those states in setting an example.
Federal law enforcment has also been required to record custodial interrogations since 2014.
This bill is part of the Legislative Black Caucus’ Justice for All agenda, and formed out of discussions in the Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force.
Minor-Brown says she’s already received positive feedback from lawmakers, but has yet to talk with law enforcement about the bill.
Originally, this story stated 7 states and DC require recording of custodial interrogations. In actuality, 27 states and DC require recordings, this story has been updated to reflect that error.