NEW YORK — Less than a week at his new post, New York State Bar Association President Seymour James Jr., of Brooklyn, released the following statement this week supporting two bills that would require police to videotape their interrogations and conduct double-blind police lineups:
The state Assembly should be commended for passing a bill (A 5886-C) that would require police to videotape the interrogations of criminal suspects. The measure would reduce the likelihood that innocent New Yorkers are convicted of crimes they did not commit as a result of false confessions.
Improperly conducted interrogations can and do result in false confessions. The videotaping of an entire interrogation allows the judge and jurors to see for themselves whether police officers used proper procedures or coerced the defendant to confess.
The New York State Bar Association urges the Senate to enact the videotaping bill.
We are disappointed that the Assembly failed to take action on a second bill (A 5317-A), which would address another factor contributing to wrongful convictions: mistakes by eyewitnesses in identifying suspects. This bill would change police lineup procedures to remove the possibility that a police officer — either inadvertently or deliberately — might influence a witness in selecting a suspect. The bill would require that lineups be conducted in a "double-blind" fashion, meaning the officer overseeing the lineup does not know the identity of the suspect.
Passage of both bills would be a win-win for the innocent and for public safety. Each time an innocent person goes to prison, a guilty person is free to commit another crime.