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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nassau to videotape interrogations in major crimes

Nassau police are about to start videotaping all interrogations in homicide and serious robbery cases, a move that both law enforcement officials and defense lawyers say will make prosecutions more fair.

Police and prosecutors said the videotapes will be useful tools at trial, and that they will also help protect police against false allegations that they denied defendants their rights. Defense lawyers also applauded the move, saying that it will protect their clients from coerced confessions and police abuse.

"We don't want to tell jurors what happened," said District Attorney Kathleen Rice at a news conference Friday. "Ideally, we want to show them."

In Suffolk County, police and prosecutors have similar plans, officials there said. Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said in a statement that he hopes to have some video cameras up and running "within three months."

Until now, police in both counties haven't videotaped interviews with suspects. In some cases, prosecutors have videotaped interviews with defendants after police have already questioned and arrested them.

Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said from now on, police will tape interrogations in all serious robbery cases and homicides, because these are the cases where interrogations typically take place in police headquarters in Mineola.

"We have nothing to hide here," Mulvey said.

Mulvey said if videotaping robberies and homicides is successful, he will consider expanding the policy to include other crimes.

Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Innocence Project, which assists prisoners who have been wrongly convicted, said Nassau will be one of 17 jurisdictions in New York to routinely videotape interrogations. [Mark Godsey]

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