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New Law Requires All Murder Suspect Statements Be Taped

Posted April 21, 2008
Updated April 22, 2008

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— A law that took effect last month requires law enforcement officers to record interviews with all homicide suspects who are in custody.

“The driving force was the Innocence Commission and the people who have been discovered in prison or on death row who are innocent,” Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, said.

The law is intended to minimize the chances for mistakes in the arrest and interview process. Supporters said it benefits officers as well as suspects.

“Coerced confessions, or situations where there's a misunderstanding about the confession, are frequently situations where you can convict the wrong person,” Ross said.

“There was a lot of physical and emotional coercion,” Andrew Dalzell said as he spoke in favor of the law.

Dalzell said Carrboro police used force and intimidation in 1997 to get him to confess to murder in the disappearance of Debra Key.

“I told them what they wanted to hear. I just wanted to go home. I wanted to be with my girlfriend at that point, Stacy. I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to eat,” Dalzell said.

Officers showed Dalzell a fake letter from the district attorney, stating he would face the death penalty if he didn't lead them to Key's body.

A judge later threw out Dalzell's confession, and he walked away from the murder charge. Supporters say the new law will either prove or disprove a suspect's story about interrogation and help prevent situations like Dalzell's.

“If there's any question about what was said, or what happened, it'll be very easy to resolve those issues right then,” Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said.

The recordings can be either audio tape or videotape. A suspect has the right to refuse the recordings, but that statement of refusal must be recorded.

If a person of interest is interviewed in a situation where he or she is not in custody, the law does not require a taped interview, according to the State Bureau of Investigation.

Police agencies are allowed to destroy recordings a year after a convict's last possible appeal has been completed.

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  • TheAdmiral Apr 23, 2008

    Now - with my last rant - why not have all criminals in digital format? Not in tape. Why not get everyone including murderers on camera and voice?

    This gives those "self-regulating" lawyers the ability to claim duress when they are questioned, getting them off.

  • TheAdmiral Apr 23, 2008

    Hey - I have an idea - let's put cameras in the foreheads of everyone who could be stereotyped as a murder suspect. When it happens then we can say we have it definitely on video.

    I think it is a riot that all of the county commissioners and the law enforcement agencies want cameras on every pole to watch in the area for crime - with the pitch saying that it will keep crime at bay.

    Tell that to a Florida girl who was snatched and raped and murdered. Tell that to the boy who was snatched by a person hell bent on raping boys; gagging him with gasoline on camera until he was dead. Tell that to the tellers of the banks who get killed every year.

    Cameras do not solve the problem. In fact, cameras rarely solve anything at all. Granted there are stupid people out there who get caught - but for crimes against children - it solves nothing.

  • Adelinthe Apr 22, 2008

    AMEN, AMEN!!!

    We aren't in the dark ages anymore after all.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Common Sense Man Apr 22, 2008

    "two problems with this already...the suspect has a right to refuse..and it can be destroyed......why have a law and then say but oh yeah, we won't record it if you don't want us to..so that if this doesn't come out the way you want it to, you can claim we forced you...and some are granted new appeals even after exausting all appeals..at what point would anyone decide to destroy a tape...other than after an exicution and even then the family might sue and say they were forced...in this wourld of litigation we live in, it's just not a smart thing to do and will come back to bite someone in the but!"

    Do what?

  • iwideopen Apr 22, 2008

    Yet something else that has good intentions but will be used by lawyers as a loophole. I can hear it now, "The recording skipped 2 seconds, it's not in color, the audio is not clear...".

    -------------------------------------------

    Maybe. But I believe that no one should spend even a day locked up or have a permenate record on file for a crime that they did not do. What is really sickening is the fine police and or prosecutors that knowingly put an innocent person in jail just to make themselves look good usually winds up becoming pillars of society.

  • thepeopleschamp Apr 22, 2008

    Yet something else that has good intentions but will be used by lawyers as a loophole. I can hear it now, "The recording skipped 2 seconds, it's not in color, the audio is not clear...".

  • b4self Apr 22, 2008

    I agree with most Great Law , would have cleared up a lot of questions on a lot of cases if already inforced .

  • GoodToGo Apr 22, 2008

    two problems with this already...the suspect has a right to refuse..and it can be destroyed......why have a law and then say but oh yeah, we won't record it if you don't want us to..so that if this doesn't come out the way you want it to, you can claim we forced you...and some are granted new appeals even after exausting all appeals..at what point would anyone decide to destroy a tape...other than after an exicution and even then the family might sue and say they were forced...in this wourld of litigation we live in, it's just not a smart thing to do and will come back to bite someone in the but!

  • udoowutchyalike Apr 22, 2008

    I have a friend who is in a state pen right now who was coerced into pleading to other charges in order to get others dropped. Well, that backfired when it came to trial time and now he's serving 110 years. If there were recordings of his statements and those of the prosecution with these plea deals , he might at least have a chance at parol.

  • GoodToGo Apr 22, 2008

    I just wonder why this wasn't always the process....

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