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Editorial: Make videotaping the law for interrogations

Illinois State  Sen. Kwame Raoul D-Chicago argues death penalty legislati Senate floor during sessiIllinois State Capitol Springfield 2011.

Illinois State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, argues death penalty legislation on the Senate floor during a session at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield in 2011. | Seth Perlman~The Associated Press

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Updated: May 29, 2013 7:34AM

The Illinois Senate advanced the cause of justice Thursday by unanimously approving a bill that would allow videotaped police interrogations in all felony cases to be used in court.

The bill doesn’t go far enough — video recording of interrogations in all serious crimes should be required — but it will close an illogical loophole that allows felony defendants who aren’t accused of homicide to keep recordings of their interrogations out of court.

As the law stands, police are permitted to electronically record interrogations in non-homicide felony cases, but the Illinois eavesdropping statute requires that the suspect give permission before a statement can be used at trial. And guess what? Defendants generally refuse. If this bill becomes law, they won’t have a choice.

Sponsor Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) said he wanted to make video recording mandatory in all felony cases, but compromised with police and prosecutors, who argued their cash-strapped agencies can’t afford the cost of additional video recording right now. But those agencies should think beyond their own bottom lines. A 2011 investigation by the Better Government Association and the Center on Wrongful Convictions found wrongful convictions for violent crimes had cost Illinois taxpayers $214 million.

Videotaping police interrogations helps guard against coerced confessions while making it harder for guilty suspects to recant their statements — clearly caught on video — once a case gets to trial.

A decade ago, Illinois became the first state to require interrogations in homicide cases to be recorded. Back then, critics worried criminals would never confess again, but that didn’t happen. Instead, a successful track record has led many of those critics to embrace the idea. Now, some other states have leapfrogged Illinois and require videotaped interrogations for a wider range of serious crimes. Illinois should join them.

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