Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
April 22, 2009
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senate Passes Part of Ellis' Innocence Protection Package
SB 116 encourages law enforcement agencies to videotape interrogations

(Austin) — The Texas Senate today passed a piece of Senator Rodney Ellis' (D-Houston) innocence protection package. The legislation, SB 116, will help prevent wrongful convictions by encouraging Texas law enforcement agencies to record interrogations.

"This legislation is a significant step in the right direction to create a smarter, more efficient, and more accurate criminal justice system," said Senator Ellis. "Studies have shown that police officers support recording interrogations once they have experience doing it, and it reduces wrongful convictions based on false confessions at the same time."

Senate Bill 116 says that the police should audio- or video-record custodial interrogations of adults suspected of committing a felony, or a juvenile who allegedly engaged in a felony-level offense. The legislation also requires the Department of Public Safety to adopt rules for providing funds or electronic recording equipment to law enforcement agencies.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia currently require custodial interrogations to be recorded via statute or case law. More than 450 police and sheriff's departments around the country are voluntarily recording some interrogations, including in police departments in Austin, Houston, Corpus Christi, and Cleburne, and sheriff's departments in Travis, Nueces, Johnson and Randall counties.

This legislation is necessary because false confessions have been shown to be the second highest cause of wrongful convictions, accounting for 6 known DNA and non-DNA exonerations in Texas.

Senate Bill 116 will save Texas courts time and money by reducing motions to suppress, and protects the police from false allegations of abuse. The bill does not mandate that police record interrogations, but rather says that "when practical," peace officers "should" record interrogations of persons suspected of committing felony-level offenses.