CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The WVU Law Innocence Project is pushing legislation at the capitol which would require all police interrogations to be video recorded. Supporters of the bill believe it will reduce the chances of false confessions and ultimately false convictions.
“In most cases the police get it right and the prosecution gets it right. The percentage of wrongful convictions is actually fairly small,” said WVU College of Law Professor and Project Director Valena Beety. “But the fact that anyone whose innocent goes to prison is something we should all be concerned with.”
Last year the legislature adopted new protocols for how lineup photos are presented to witnesses of a crime. The protocols are aimed at keeping the investigating officer from influencing the witness either deliberately or inadvertently. This year’s legislation, SB 440, would require video and audio recordings of all interviews between an investigator and a felony suspect.
“If it’s recorded, juries can see it, judges can see it, prosecutors can see it,” said WVU third-year law student Kristin Kearns. “It’s an objective record.”
The majority of West Virginia law enforcement agencies already record their interviews, but the bill would set out uniform rules and parameters regarding how those should be done to guarantee due process in the case of a confession.