WI Supreme Court Requires Recording of Juvenile Interrogations

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

The Wisconsin Supreme Court goes on the record when it comes to questioning juveniles. It ruled Thursday that police must electronically record juveniles who are detained and interrogated.

Keith Findley, a professor at UW Madison law school says, "With the Wisconsin Innocence Project, we're involved in representing people who have been wrongly convicted."

People like this man who served time for the rape and murder of a woman in Texas.
"Our first exoneration was a man named Christopher Ochoa who confessed falsely because of coercive tactics that were not captured on videotape," Findley says.

That's why he praises this week's decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It says "All custodial interrogations of juveniles must be electronically recorded where feasible and without exception when questioning occurs at a place of detention."

"I think it's time has come, no reason we shouldn't be doing it," Middleton Police Chief Brad Keil says.

The decision affects police departments such as this one in Deerfield. Chief Thomas Cipriano says, "We get quite a few juvenile calls, it's a problem as it is everywhere."
The Deerfield chief says the department has audio recorders it uses on occasion.

"There would be no problem doing it with that. Probably just place the tape recorder in interview rooms."

"If that's the best you can do videotape is obviously better because it provides so much more information," Findley says.

But Findley says any kind of recording can streamline the judicial process. "Because all of those things that are resolved through litigation now resolved by going to videotape," Findley says. Findley is a contributor to the Avery Task force, named for another man, wrongly convicted.

He says legislation being drafted now could help agencies record all felony case interrogations of juveniles and adults. "One of the things that that legislation does is it provides funding to help law enforcement purchase state of the art equipment to make sure we do this the right way," Findley says.

To avoid tipping the scales of justice the wrong way, "That's really hard for people to imagine people confess to crime they didn't commit, but evidence is there," Findley says.

The court also stated unrecorded interrogations or written statements will be inadmissible, except in certain instances.

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