Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Detroit Police Department Agrees to Videotape Interrogations of Murder Suspects Following Settlement of Lawsuit Focused on False Confession Obtained from a Suspect with Mental Illness

Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Detroit Police Department Agrees to Videotape Interrogations of Murder Suspects Following Settlement of Lawsuit Focused on False Confession Obtained from a Suspect with Mental Illness

Article excerpt

The Detroit Police Department, under pressure from a pair of consent decrees with the Department of Justice and pursuant to the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the family of a man with mental illness who spent seventeen years in prison after confessing to a rape and murder that he did not commit, agreed to videotape interrogations of all suspects in crimes that carry a penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In 2002, the only states that required videotaped interrogations were Minnesota and Alaska, but at least 450 police departments across the country now do so. This change has been driven by DNA testing that has led to the release of numerous prisoners and raised concerns about the prevalence of coerced and false confessions. Many police departments have embraced this change because they believe it will show that the confessions they obtain, which are often pivotal to their ability to secure convictions, are not coerced.

The lawsuit that provided the impetus for the videotaping policy in Detroit focused on the arrest and conviction of Eddie Joe Lloyd. Lloyd, who suffered from delusions that he had a special ability to solve crimes, sent a letter to the police while he was a patient at the Detroit Psychiatric Institute in early 1984. Lloyd had been involuntarily committed for an evaluation following a violent dispute with a clerk in a welfare office a few weeks earlier. In the letter, Lloyd offered to help in the investigation of the killing of a sixteen-year-old girl, who was the latest victim in a series of rapes and murders. …

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