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The Need for Interrogation Reform

Wrongfully Convicted Philly Resident Freed from Prison, Proves Need for Interrogation Reform
Pennsylvania still doesn't require electronic recording of interrogations
Philadelphia, PA (April 4, 2024) - This Thursday, William Bailey was released from prison after his wrongful conviction for a 1987 murder. The case against Mr. Bailey rested soley on a single eyewitness identification and the lead detective's claim that Mr. Bailey had confessed to the crime. Mr. Bailey testified on his own behalf that he never confessed and presented an alibi defense, but the jury still convicted him of first-degree murder, and the court sentenced him to life without parole. 

The eyewitness has consistently recanted his testimony in the decades after the trial. Recently, the Conviction Integrity Unit at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office provided the defense with documents from police files showing that the police reports of Mr. Bailey's post-arrest interview state that he made exculpatory statements precisely what he has always maintained. They also contained information about another potential perpetrator. This information was always in the Commonwealth's files but never before disclosed. 

As a result, Mr. Bailey lost more than 35 years of his life for a crime he didn't commit. Before his arrest, Mr. Bailey had a decorated military career and a growing family, but he was soon forced to watch his children and grandchildren grow up from behind the bars of a jail cell. Based on the suppression of this information, the Commonwealth joined Mr. Bailey's legal team from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and Blank Rome LLP in recommending to the Court that Mr. Bailey's case be favorably resolved. 

Stories like Mr. Bailey's are exactly why the Pennsylvania Innocence Project is pushing for legislation to mandate the recording of police interrogations. 30 states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government already require recording for at least some major crimes, and several others are currently considering similar laws. When a clear record exists of what occurred inside the four walls of an interrogation room, it benefits innocent people, police officers, prosecutors, and the courts. 

Thankfully, Chair of the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee Representative Tim Briggs (D-149) plans to introduce legislation to require electronic recording of certain custodial interrogations. The bill is a companion to SB717 by Senator Vincent Hughes (D-7), introduced last year and based on model legislation from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and the Uniform Law Commission. Its passage would help put a stop to tragedies like the wrongful conviction of Mr. Bailey.

If you would like to learn more about how to get involved with the effort to require recording of interrogations, please contact info@painnocence.org

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