Virginia House Assembly Delegate member Albert C. Eisenberg published an article today for the Connection Newspapers outlining his plan to introduce legislation requiring the State of Virginia to videotape confessions of juveniles in felony cases. Cleverly titled "Let’s go to the Videotape", the article contains statistics such as these:
Northwestern University conducted the most comprehensive study of exonerations ever done. It found alarming results. Of 340 U.S. exonerations between 1989 and 2003 the youngest suspects, those aged between 12 and 15, confessed falsely 69 percent of the time. Older juveniles gave false confessions almost half the time.
William J. Stejskal, Ph.D., director of the Psychology Institute of Law, Psychiatric and Public Policy at the University of Virginia is also quoted:
When the only records of custodial interrogations consist of the variable recollections of the participants, or some handwritten notes that were produced under ambiguous or dubious circumstances, unjust and undesirable outcomes can occur.
False confessions, while somewhat unusual, create serious injustice in our society. Certainly the ease with which the State could videotape the circumstances and actual words a defendant uses while "confessing" demand the remedy. How hard is it nowadays to tape a subject that is actually confessing? And why limit this tool to juveniles or felony cases?