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Court adopts police interrogation rule

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Following the model of more than a dozen other states, the Indiana Supreme Court has added a new Rule of Evidence to require that certain statements be recorded before they can be entered into evidence.

Approved by a three-justice majority, today's six-page order adds Indiana Rule 617 that applies to any statements on or after Jan. 1, 2011.

Noting how electronically recorded interrogations assist courts and can be used as a potent law enforcement tool for guilt or innocence, the rule reads in part, "In a felony criminal prosecution, evidence of a statement made by a person during a Custodial Interrogation in a Place of Detention shall not be admitted against the person unless an Electronic Recording of the statement was made."

The rule specifically mandates that an audio-video recording be made within a jail, law enforcement agency station house, or facility owned and operated by law enforcement.

Seven exemptions are included:

1. Statements made as part of routine processing or booking

2. Statements made when the suspect does not agree to be electronically recorded

3. When there is an equipment malfunction

4. When the interrogation takes place in another jurisdiction

5. When law enforcement officers reasonably believe the crime under investigation isn't a felony

6. The statement made is spontaneous and not in response to a question

7. Substantial exigent circumstances exist which prevent the recording

The rule takes effect in 2011, a delay put in place at Marion County's request, to allow law enforcement agencies there to buy necessary equipment, train officers, and implement the new policies.

Once it takes effect, the court expects the recordings will lead to fewer factual disputes and reduce the number of motions to suppress evidence, as well as possibly lead to more guilty pleas.

"With the foregoing considerations in mind, the Court finds that the interests of justice and sound judicial administration will be served by the adoption of a new Rule of Evidence," the order reads.

Voting against the revision were Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Frank Sullivan, who wrote dissenting paragraphs highlighting the Hoosier law enforcement community's integrity and existing practice as reasons not to amend the rule.

"There are states where bad conduct by police or prosecutors has led to repeated injustice in the criminal process," the chief justice wrote. "Indiana has not been such a place. My assessment of the honesty and professionalism of Indiana's public safety officers leads me to conclude that today's action is not warranted."

Justice Sullivan observed that many state police agencies have already taken this initiative on their own, and so it isn't necessary for the court to get involved.

More than 300 comments came into the court's Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure earlier this year during a public comment period that ended April 30. Of the total, the court reports that 89 comments came from law enforcement officers, 80 from the general public, 36 from prosecutors, 27 from public defenders, 61 from other attorneys, five from judges, and five from other judicial officers.

Sixteen states, as well as Washington, D.C., currently have statutory requirements or court rules requiring or encouraging the recording of police interrogations to some degree. Legislation has been proposed in several states and is endorsed by the American Bar Association. Wrongful conviction advocates report that about a quarter of the DNA exonerations nationally involve some aspect of innocent defendants making incriminating statements, delivering false confessions or pleading guilty.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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