State v. Lockhar

Decision Date12 October 2010
Docket NumberTSC17773
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

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PALMER, J., concurring. I disagree with the majority's refusal to exercise this court's inherent supervisory authority over the administration of justice1 to establish a rule that, whenever reasonably feasible, police station interrogations of suspects shall be recorded electronically.2 The reasons favoring such a recording requirement are truly compelling, 3 whereas the arguments against it are wholly unpersuasive. Indeed, each and every substantive argument that the state and the majority raise against a recording requirement has been discredited by the experience of those police departments, in this state and across the country, that record interrogations as a matter of policy.4 Contrary to the majority's assertion that a rule requiring the recording of interrogations ''could... have negative repercussions for the administration of justice''; footnote 17 of the majority opinion; there is no question that such a rule would promote the fair and impartial administration of justice in this state. Simply put, in this day and age, there is no legitimate justification to refuse to adopt the requirement under this court's supervisory powers.5 Because, however, the failure of the police to record the interrogation of the defendant in the present case was harmless, I concur in the result that the majority reaches.6


The value in recording interrogations is so obvious as to require little discussion. When a confession7 is memorialized in such a manner, the fact finder need not rely exclusively, or even primarily, on the recollections and testimony of those present at the interrogation in order to determine precisely what occurred when the confession allegedly was obtained. As the United States Supreme Court has observed, the interrogation of suspects by the police generally takes place in secret; the suspect is isolated, incommunicado, from everyone but his interrogators, a scenario that necessarily ''results in a gap in our knowledge as to what in fact goes on in the interrogation rooms.'' Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 448, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966). Courts and juries nevertheless are required to decide whether a confession represents the suspect's free and voluntary decision to acknowledge criminal wrongdoing, free from coercion by the police. Sometimes, however, the issue is not so much whether the confession was the product of police coercion but, rather, whether the interrogation methods used by the police, which often include sophisticated psychological ploys and techniques, caused the suspect to admit to a crime that he did not commit. See, e.g., B. Garrett, ''The Substance of False Confessions, '' 62 Stan. L. Rev. 1051, 1060 (2010) (''People have long falsely confessed not just in cases involving police torture or the 'third degree' but alsoin cases involving psychological techniques commonly used in modern police interrogations. Over the past two decades, scholars, social scientists, and writers have identified at least 250 cases in which they determined that people likely falsely confessed to crimes. New cases are regularly identified.''). In all cases, a recording of the interrogation provides the fact finder with an objectively accurate picture of what transpired during the questioning, thereby greatly enhancing the fact finder's ability to evaluate the voluntariness and validity of the confession. For that reason alone, the value of recording interrogations is immeasurable.

In recent years, the critical importance of recording interrogations has become even clearer due to an increasing awareness of the phenomenon of false confessions. According to the Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, ''[f]or many reasons—including mental health issues and aggressive law enforcement tactics— innocent people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit.'' Innocence Project, ''False Confessions and Mandatory Recording of Interrogations, '' available at http: // (last visited September 27, 2010). ''While it can be hard to understand why someone would falsely confess to a crime, psychological research has provided some answers—and DNA exonerations have proven that the problem is more widespread than many people think. In approximately 25 [percent] of the [cases involving] wrongful convictions overturned [through the use of] DNA evidence, defendants made false confessions, admissions or statements to law enforcement officials.''8 Id.; see also id. (concluding that ''[t]he electronic recording of interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions'').

Although falsely confessing to a crime seems highly counterintuitive to most people, ''[a] variety of factors can contribute to a false confession during a police interrogation.'' Innocence Project, ''False Confessions, '' available at http: // (last visited September 27, 2010). They include duress, coercion, intoxication, diminished capacity, mental impairment, ignorance of the law, fear of violence, the actual infliction of harm, the threat of a harsh sentence, and a misunderstanding of the situation. Id. ''Confessions obtained from juveniles are often unreliable—children can be easy to manipulate and are not always fully aware of their situation. [Sometimes] [c]hildren and adults both are... convinced that that they can 'go home' as soon as they admit guilt.'' Id. ''People with mental disabilities... often falsely [confess] because they are tempted to accommodate and agree with authority figures.'' Id. ''Regardless of the age, capacity or state of the confes-sor, what they often have in common is a decision— at some point during the interrogation process—that confessing will be more beneficial to them than continuing to maintain their innocence.'' Id. In one recent study involving forty proven cases of false confession, ''innocent people not only falsely confessed, but they also offered surprisingly rich, detailed, and accurate information.... Often those details included reportedly 'inside information' that only the rapist or murderer could have known. We now know that each of these people was innocent and was not at the crime scene. Where did those details, recounted at length at trial and recorded in confession statements, come from?... In many cases... police likely disclosed those details during the interrogations by telling exonerees how the crime happened.'' B. Garrett, supra, 62 Stan. L. Rev. 1054.

''One of the most publicized examples of the system's failure to protect innocent confessors is the [New York City] Central Park jogger case. Five young men between the ages of fourteen and sixteen were convicted of the 1989 beating and rape that left the twenty-eight-year-old victim hospitalized for six weeks. Because the victim was incapable of identifying her attackers, the prosecution's case relied primarily on the youths' confessions.... [I]n January of 2002, Matias Reyes, while serving time for another 1989 rape and murder, confessed to the brutal attack, and DNA testing confirmed his story.

''So why, one might ask, did five innocent teenagers confess to a crime they didn't commit? Perhaps twenty--eight hours of custodial detention, coupled with a host of interrogation techniques were at the root of the teenagers' decision to confess.''9 N. Soree, comment, ''When the Innocent Speak: False Confessions, Constitutional Safeguards, and the Role of Expert Testimony, '' 32 Am. J. Crim. L. 191, 194 (2005).

Thus, as one authoritative source has explained, ''[s]ocial psychologists, criminologists, sociologists, legal scholars, and independent writers have documented so many examples of interrogation-induced false confession in recent years that there is no longer any dispute about their occurrence. Nevertheless, there is good reason to believe that the documented cases of interrogation-induced false confession understate the true nature and extent of the phenomenon. Most false confessions are not easily discovered and are rarely publicized: they are likely to go unnoticed by researchers, unacknowledged by police and prosecutors, and unreported by the media. As many have pointed out, the documented cases of interrogation-induced false confession are therefore likely to represent only the tip of a much larger iceberg.


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