In the continuing effort to convict only the guilty and free only the innocent increasing attention has focused on criminal confessions. Long a source of controversy, confessions are imperfect instruments with which to determine guilt or innocence. Police coerce confessions, and suspects under disabilities and without legal representation confess to crimes they did not commit. However, videotaping confessions and interrogations may be one way to improve the accuracy of this powerful piece of evidence. Whether used in interrogation rooms, during traffic stops, or as hand-held devices, video cameras have the potential to reduce the risks of wrongful convictions and, by contrast, false allegations of police misconduct. Further, courts adjudicating matters of due process surrounding confession evidence might welcome such a record of the events that led the parties to their courtrooms. While some raise concerns about video’s feasibility in certain situations, and others attack its intrusion on privacy, the possibly benefits to suspects and police are undeniable. This article explores the role of video surveillance in a variety of law enforcement situations, with special attention paid to its use in improving the reliability of confession evidence. By exploring video’s use in interrogation rooms, in patrol cars, and as a hand-held device, the author provides a broad survey of video’s advantages in disadvantages in varied circumstances. The article also analyzes the attitudes of criminals, police, and most importantly courts and legislatures, toward video as an evidence enhancing device. Courts and legislatures rules are further scrutinized to determine the drawbacks and benefits of the variety of laws currently in place. Finally, the article analyzes video’s benefits to police as well as criminals and concludes that video-tape provides a new level of justice for the actors in the criminal justice system, and thus the system itself.
Matthew D. Thurlow, Lights, Camera, Action: Video Cameras as Tools of Justice, 23 J. Marshall J. Computer & Info. L. 771 (2005)