Some Critical of Governor's Suggested Guidelines on Police Interrogations
It's an interrogation video that led to the arrest of Adrian Thomas in 2008 for the death of his four-month-old son. It also led to an eventual not guilty verdict after two trials.
"If my videotape confession and false confession wasn't recorded at all, I wouldn't be here today," Thomas said Monday. "I'd still be in prison, serving 25 to life."
In the video, Thomas admits to killing his son, but says he was coerced.
"They made a lot of promises over nine hours that I wouldn't be arrested; I could go home to my son," Thomas said.
"We know the governor wants to prevent this," said Art Frost, who represented Thomas.
Now, Thomas and public defenders are asking lawmakers to say no to new guidelines put forth by Governor Andrew Cuomo for when police can videotape interrogations.
"Under the governor's bill, it would have never been detected, and Adrian would sit in prison for the rest of his life," Frost said.
The governor's plan is included in this year's budget proposal, which is scheduled to be voted on by lawmakers by the end of this week. That's why Adrian Thomas is using this week to talk to state lawmakers to consider this other option.
"The Assembly has an answer: In all violent felony cases, the camera equipment must go on. There's no reason why we can't be doing this," said Al O'Connor of the New York State Defenders Association.
O'Connor adds their proposal would also include people who are not in custody, and the entire interrogation would be videotaped.
"If we leave it to police to decide when the cameras are going to be turned on, we're not going to leave everything that's necessary to prevent wrongful convictions," O'Connor said.
"Governor Cuomo's proposal protects the innocent, ensures the integrity of the process, and is intended to restore trust in the criminal justice system," said a statement from Cuomo spokesman Jason Elan. "No matter the details, there will always be criticism from the fringes, but this proposal has received broad support from the Innocence Project, the District Attorneys Association and the New York State Bar Association, among others."
That bill has passed the Assembly and is awaiting action in the Senate.