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Chairman Nadler Statement for the Markup of H.R. 7636, the Custodial Interrogation Recording Act

Washington, September 15, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, during the markup of H.R. 7636, the Custodial Interrogation Recording Act: 

"H.R. 7636, the 'Custodial Interrogation Recording Act,' would provide grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to implement audio and video recording of custodial interrogations.  This important legislation would help bring needed transparency to the custodial interview process and protect against coerced confessions.

"In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court defined ‘custodial interrogation’ as questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way.  This sort of pressure could adversely impact any meaningful investigation because an individual’s state of mind at this point is most vulnerable.

"Recognizing the impact of flawed confessions on the lives of those forced to render such statements, and on the integrity of the criminal justice system, this bill provides funding to assist State and local governments achieve the complete and accurate audio and video recording of every custodial interrogation. 

"Evidence shows alarming number of individuals who are wrongfully convicted each year due to false confessions.  Recordings are critical in revealing exactly what is said during an interrogation, shedding important light on any confessions that ultimately may occur.  Without an accurate record, a wrongful conviction is more likely to occur, which means not only that an innocent person may languish in prison or jail, but also that the guilty offender will go free, perhaps to offend again.

"The technology for conducting these recordings has advanced tremendously, and the recording of custodial interrogations is supported on a broad and bipartisan basis.  Several state legislatures, courts, and police departments have begun requiring recording of interrogations.  Many law enforcement personnel, scientists, and legal scholars agree—in order to reap the benefits that electronic recording affords citizens, police, prosecutors, suspects, and the justice system as a whole, the entirety of custodial interrogations must be recorded in all felony cases.  The recording should commence at the moment a suspect is Mirandized, and continue, unaltered and uninterrupted, until the end of the interview. 

"And, as the Supreme Court has stated, '[u]nless adequate protective devices are employed to dispel the compulsion inherent in custodial surroundings, no statement obtained from [a] defendant can truly be the product of his free choice.'

"Several state supreme courts have since established rules regarding taping. The Alaska Supreme Court for example, held that the unexcused failure to record interrogations conducted in places of detention violates due process clause of the state constitution, and any statement made in an unrecorded interrogation is generally inadmissible in court.  Likewise, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that a defendant whose confession is not electronically recorded is entitled to have a cautionary instruction with respect to any confession read to the jury.

"H.R. 7636 would help all states protect their citizens in a similar way.  As the Uniform Law Commission, which has developed model legislation calling for electronic recording of custodial interrogations, stated recently 'we are very encouraged by the introduction of H.R. 7636 because the goal of the federal legislation is the same as the Uniform Act: to promote truth-finding during the interrogation process, and to promote efficiency in the administration of the criminal justice system.'

"I want to thank the bill’s author, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, for her leadership in this effort and I encourage all my colleagues to support this important legislation."
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