Very interesting. According to this article from The Star Ledger, new rules adopted by the New Jersey Supreme Court will require recording of interrogations - either audio or videotaping - from the Miranda reading forward.
I think this is great. We know that so many of our clients' confessions come after hours and hours of interrogation, then the videocamera is finally turned on, and all the jury sees is our client blurt out, "Yes, I did it!" Maybe if the jury saw how that confession was reached, they would be more skeptical of it's veracity.
The article states that there will be sanctions for failure to comply with the new rule. Courts can choose to preclude any confession where the entire interrogation was not recorded, or can caution jurors about the reliability of such confessions.
It may be interesting to those outside the criminal defense sector to learn that many of the wrongful convictions that have been overturned involved a confession by the defendant. For a number of reasons, people sometimes confess to crimes they are not guilty of. Videotaping those confessions in their entirety can help identify and prevent those situations.
Finally, the article mentions that the new rule will be phased in, first requiring recording of interrogations in homicide cases by January 2006, then in felonies where the defendant faces more than 5 years in prison by January 2007, and then (presumably, although it is not mentioned in the article) eventually to all interrogations.
I'll be most interested in hearing whether this will come as a mixed blessing for public defenders in that area. Perhaps it will lead to damning recorded confessions in more cases, or limit the defenses available at trial because a defendant already chose their defense before speaking to a lawyer. I would expect that it would lead to New Jersey public defender's wishing more clients knew -and understand- that they had the right to remain silent. Will the absence of a videotape hold a new inference for a jury to draw against a defendant?
Only time (and hopefully some NJ public defender bloggers) will tell.