Local News

New Law Requires All Murder Suspect Statements Be Taped

Posted April 21, 2008 11:44 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2008 5:53 p.m. EDT

— 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.