Why would anyone oppose this no-brainer bill by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond)?
- “‘Custodial interrogation’ means any interview conducted by a law-enforcement officer in such circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to consider himself to be in custody and during which the law-enforcement officer takes actions or asks questions that are calculated to elicit responses from the person that could incriminate him.”
- “The length of any custodial interrogation shall not be unreasonable, and a person who is subject to the custodial interrogation shall be permitted reasonable periods for rest and personal necessities.”
- “If practicable, a law-enforcement officer conducting a custodial interrogation of any person at a place of detention shall cause an audiovisual recording of such custodial interrogation to be made.”
- “The failure of a law-enforcement officer to cause an audiovisual recording to be made in accordance with subsection C shall not affect the admissibility of the statements made by the subject of the custodial interrogation, but the court shall instruct the jury that such failure shall be considered in determining the weight given to such evidence or, if the court is trying the case without a jury, shall consider such failure in determining the weight given to such evidence.”
Yet all nine Senate Republicans on the Courts of (In)Justice Committee voted, on a party line, to oppose this excellent bill by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D) on police interrogations, while all six Democrats voted “aye.” The reason? Hard to say, but if you look at the end of this video, you’ll see Arlington’s Commonwealth Attorney Theo Stamos arguing that “we do oppose this legislation, what it does is essentially codify the notion that police officers are inherently untrustworthy.” Which, actually, doesn’t appear to be in this bill at all – as you can see above, the bill simply calls for custodial interrogations to be reasonable and for law enforcement officers, IF PRACTICABLE, to create an audiovisual recording of said interrogation. The bill further clarifies that failure to do so will NOT “affect the admissibility of the statements made by the subject of the custodial interrogation.” And, as Sen. McClellan explains, this bill is as much aimed at protecting suspects being interrogated as WELL AS protecting law enforcement, “because sometimes accusations are made against law enforcement [and] a recording would put those allegations in context and sometimes exonerate law enforcement.” So what’s the problem? Got me. Yet somehow, the bill was defeated on a party-line vote. What gives here? And why was Arlington’s Commonwealth Attorney Theo Stamos, a Democrat, taking the side of the Republicans on this?
P.S. Theo Stamos just called me and said that the main concern was with language that “the court shall instruct the jury that such failure shall be considered in determining the weight given to such evidence.” With that removed, according to Stamos, she would have no problem with this legislation.