When I was a kid growing up in Silver Spring, the local CBS affiliate’s sportscaster was Warner Wolf.  His catch phrase was, “Let’s go to the videotape.”  As we discussed here, that might as well now be NCIS’s catch phrase, too.  We noted that in September 2008, NCIS adopted this revision to its policy to require that most interrogations for violent offenses be videotaped. 

This week’s Marine Corps Times has an article on the revised policy’s implementation.  Andrew Tilghman, New NCIS policy requires agents to videotape suspect confessions, Marine Corps Times, Oct. 5, 2009, at 18.  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t appear to be available online to non-subscribers.  The article indicates that”NCIS agents have taped more than 800 interrogations since the policy took effect in September 2008.”  The article also states taht “the Navy has not allocated the roughly $1.5 million needed to outfit NCIS offices worldwide with video equipment.”

9 Responses to “Marine Corps Times article on NCIS’s interrogation videotaping policy”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Now NCIS will have to learn how to interrogate.

  2. Some Army Guy says:

    If only CID…

  3. Angela Ehlers says:

    Finally…I would have hoped that NCIS would have been up-to-the-minute on these kinds of things. Guess now, they can’t lie in court about confessions that they allege they receive.

    What will this do the 90% conviction rate JAG likes so much?

    I would hope that this is the “truth serum” that NCIS needs because everyone knows how corrupt they are.

  4. Paul says:

    This is great for both sides. I said it before (and I think Phil echoed it) that you should be careful what you wish for. What you are going to see is the confession rate stay the same and convictions rise. Now DC are no longer able to use the issue as a weapon and plant reasonable dobt in just one member’s mind. Angela, what you should ask is what will happen to the conviction rate of contested cases? Chances are some will no longer be contested. DC will see the confession and absent any another reason to contest the case will look for the deal. Now, TC will say, “Why would I deal this case, I have a solid confession AND it’s recorded.”

    And, Angela what evidence do you have of NCIS corruption? Which case(s)? Seriously, put it out there, submit it to the IG. What I’ve found is NCIS is so far removed from general crimes now I am surprised you still see them in court.

  5. Phil Cave says:

    Paul, I did say to be careful what you wish for. For the reasons you state. I’m not convinced that there will be a major impact on negotiations from the government case. They already think they have a slam dunk that the MJ won’t suppress the statement, and why worry about an appeal 8 or 9 or 10 years later, more if it’s a death penalty case. It will be easier for defense counsel to negotiate with the client. Viewing the video confession serves the same client educational value as an Article 32.

    I think the major benefit will be in contested cases or at Article 32’s. (And I’m interested to see if in fact there become more contested cases. I’m not sure that’s a statistic we can capture, and an increase in contested trials due to taped confessions would be largely anecdotal I suspect. Nowadays the “I contest” motivator is sex offender registration I think, even in potentially hopeless cases (how many clients say give me ten, just don’t make me register).

    Anyway, off this stream-of-consciousness introductory paragraph and back to the point of taped confessions.

    How many times does the client say, “that’s not what I said,” or “that’s way out of context, that’s not what we were talking about or meaning.” And for you the meaning or context might be critical to the case — been there done that. Or how about the inflection in the clients response, or body language the agent testifies to.

    In other words, the agent can’t put their finger on the scales with a taped confession! The “this is what I remember,” or “he acted with surprise and anger,” or “no that’s not in my notes, but that’s what I remember him saying,” etc., etc., etc.

    I have to admit that I’ve counseled clients in my share of suppression motions that the Members are likely to believe the agent (gosh, why would the agent lie? Gosh, in my years as police officer I never saw or heard of a policeman lie? Oooooo my goodness, why would they want to lose their job or go to jail for lying about some scumbag who blagged some old lady and stole a quid from her purse). [Sorry, I’ve lost my American-English, English-American phrase book, but we aren’t talking about her chew of tobacco.]

    So what if that’s an important point for the case, the meaning, context, or nuance of “alleged” words of confession. Now you can say to the client (you hope), yeah you are right, the agent is messing with you.

    In England we call it “gilding the lily.”

    Anyway, to me this has been one of the best reasons for taping, to know what the client really said and what was his demeanor when he said it.

  6. Dew_Process says:

    I’ve practiced in a jurisdiction that had mandatory video-recordings due to a consent decree based upon a “suspicious” death in an interrogation room. The immediate fall-out was that a number of the “senior” detectives retired.

    Second, the number of suppression hearings dropped about 50% immediately – you still have stuff about threats, etc., that happen on the way to the station or “off camera” things, e.g., 5 hours of questioning before they turn on the camera.

    The conviction rate went down slightly, primarily because the prosecutors didn’t want juries to see the cops banging a gun on the table, or the defendant so drunk / high they were incomprehensible, and thus ruin credibility on other areas. But, pleas were far easier to negotiate on both sides of the isle – like one of my erstwhile clients who pointed out on tape that the cop had made a mistake in reading the Miranda card, which indeed he had!

    Judge’s loved it because it reduced their appellate “exposure” on suppression decisions to almost zero – like most of them worried in the first place.

    But, the largest statistic was in the number of cases where the prosecutor’s voluntarily opted not to use the so-called confession after viewing the video.

    All-in-all, it’s an improvement to the system all the way around if it’s done properly.

  7. Phil Cave says:

    DP, thanks. I agree about prosecutors who take a look at the video and realize that maybe it’s not so good after all.

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