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TJP in the News — Norfolk 4 Case Illustrates Need for Reform May 9, 2007

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

A letter to the editor by John Terzano, President of The Justice Project, was published in the Washington Post on May 8. In his letter, John calls attention to the need for states to mandate the full electronic recording of custodial interrogations to help prevent wrongful convictions based on false confessions.

While some states are taking the necessary steps to reform their systems, miscarriages of justice continue to go unaddressed. For example, four innocent men — the “Norfolk 4” — were wrongly convicted in Norfolk, VA based on false confessions. Despite DNA and other forensic evidence that exonerates them, three of these men remain in prison, serving life sentences without parole.

Because confessions are often viewed as the most powerful evidence at trial, and can even overcome forensic evidence pointing to the defendant’s innocence, it is essential that judges and juries can accurately assess the reliability of confessions. Questions surrounding cases like the Norfolk 4 could be resolved early on if states mandate electronic recording of interrogations.

The Justice Project recently released Electronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations: A Policy Review, which details best practices, a comprehensive rationale for changes in procedure, as well as background information on false confessions, costs and benefits, a model policy, and the experiences of jurisdictions that currently record interrogations.

By adopting this and other reforms, states can help increase fairness and accuracy in our criminal justice system.

Read John’s letter, Injustice in Virginia: The Norfolk 4.

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