Senate OKs bill to protect minors from coerced confessions by videotaping homicide interviews

May 31, 2013
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State policymakers support Sen. Ted W. Lieu’s efforts to protect accused children

SACRAMENTO – In response to research indicating that false confessions by children under 18 have led to an increase in wrongful convictions, the California Senate approved a measure by Sen. Ted W. Lieu requiring law enforcement agencies statewide to videotape interviews of minors accused of homicide.
 
“The virtue of videotaping interrogations of children lies not only in its ability to guard against false confessions but also in its ability to develop the strongest evidence possible to help convict the guilty,” Lieu, D-Torrance, said after the Senate voted 36-0 Wednesday on Senate Bill 569. “Requiring videotaping of the interrogations of juveniles suspected of homicide would improve criminal investigation techniques, reduce the likelihood of wrongful conviction and further the cause of justice in California.”
Lieu said he became aware of the issue from a recent national study by Professor Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan that identified false confessions, extracted during police questioning of suspects, as the second most frequent cause of wrongful conviction.

Lieu said he was concerned about how children may be the most vulnerable to false confessions or coercion because of their immaturity. Research has demonstrated that brain development continues throughout adolescence and into early adulthood. The brain’s frontal lobes – responsible for mature thought, reasoning, and judgment – develop last.

“Adolescents use their brains in a fundamentally different manner than adults,” he said. “They are more likely to act on impulse, without fully considering the consequences of their decisions or actions. Videotaping their interviews will help ensure accuracy.”
Specifically, SB 569 would:

     • Require the interrogation of a minor who is suspected or accused of committing homicide to be videotaped by law enforcement agencies statewide.
     • Provide various exceptions from the videotaping requirement.
     • Require the prosecution to show by clear and convincing evidence that an exception applies to justify the failure to make that electronic recording.

Lieu added that three injustices occur from false confessions: an innocent person is incarcerated; the real perpetrator remains free to commit crimes; the victims’ families are subjected to double emotional trauma – the loss of a loved one and the guilt over the conviction of an innocent child.

SB 569 is co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union; the California Public Defenders Association; and the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

The measure now goes to the Assembly for review; no date has yet been set.

For more, please visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below.

Ted W. Lieu represents the more than 1 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Beverly Hills, Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, Torrance, West Hollywood and the Palos Verdes Peninsula as well as portions of Long Beach and Los Angeles including, Beverly Glenn, Brentwood, Cheviot Hills, Harbor City, Hollywood Hills, Marina del Rey, Mar Vista, Pacific Palisades, Playa del Rey, San Pedro, Venice, Westwood and Wilmington. See a district map HERE: For more, visit www.senate.ca.gov/lieu.