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Pair Of Florida Bills Backed By Innocence Project Pass First Senate Committee

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A pair of bills backed by the Innocence Project have passed their first committee hearing.

Today, when law enforcement officers question a person in their custody, it’s not required by Florida law that the interrogation be recorded. So, Sen. Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando) wants to change that for people charged with a felony.

“Studies have shown that failure to make a complete recording can lead to false confessions that lead to systematic injustices,” he said.

Seth Miller, Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Florida, likes the bill.

“It protects innocent people by deterring coercive interrogation tactics that lead to false confessions, and recording interrogations also benefits law enforcement by removing any-a-doubt about the authenticity of a confession,” he said.

Miller also likes a bill by Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) to direct law enforcement agencies create a uniform procedure for conducting lineups to reduce wrongful prosecutions. His bill is in line with a Florida Innocence Commission recommendation.

“It will require eyewitnesses to acknowledge their instructions about the lineup procedure and that they’ve been told the investigation may continue and the individual may or may not be there,” said Baxley.

And, Michelle Feldman with the National Innocence Project says it’s needed.

“Nationally, eyewitness misidentification…it’s the number one cause of wrongful convictions that are proven with DNA,” she said.

And, she adds it will not only protect the innocent, it will also help keep the public safe.

“Because when the wrong person is convicted, the real perpetrator could be out harming others...there have been 349 DNA exonerations,” she added. “71 percent of those cases involved eyewitness misidentification, and the real perpetrators, that were later identified in those crimes, went onto be convicted of 100 additional violent crimes, and that includes 64 rapes and 17 murders. So, there’s a real public safety implication.”

Both bills unanimously passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.