October 10, 2003

Carol Robles-Roman
Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs
Counsel to the Mayor
City of New York

Dear Ms. Robles-Roman,

We write to request a meeting with you or other appropriate members of the Mayor’s Office to discuss a request the NYCLU made of Commissioner Kelly last year that the NYPD initiate a program of videotaping the interrogation of suspects in serious crimes. Because our process with the Police Department seems to have come to an end, we write to you.

As we assume you recall, in September 2002 new evidence emerged indicating that the youth convicted in the Central Park Jogger case in fact were innocent of the rape charges for which they were convicted and imprisoned. This raised immediate questions about the NYPD interrogations in which the defendants allegedly confessed to the rape and which were used to secure the convictions. The defendants alleged that the interrogations were coerced, a charge that took on considerable credibility in light of the new evidence (which subsequently led to the convictions being vacated).

Given these developments and given the fact that this was just the most recent of a number of cases in New York and around the country in which people had been convicted (and even sentenced to death) on the basis of confessions that turned out to be false, we wrote to Commissioner Kelly asking that the NYPD consider a fundamental reform that is being implemented around the country to protect against coerced confessions: the videotaping of custodial interrogations. We enclose a copy of our September 17 letter to Commissioner Kelly.

The Department did respond to our request, and we met with high-level Department officials about our proposal on October 30, 2002. Since then we have repeatedly inquired about the status of our proposal, only to be told the Department is still considering it. Last month, however, Commissioner Kelly told the New York Times, in a story about the NYPD’s refusal to implement videotaping, “I don’t see the need, quite frankly.” (We enclose a copy of the story.) Though we have yet to receive any formal statement from the Department rejecting our request, it has now become apparent that it has no intention of pursuing the matter.

We therefore ask that the Mayor’s Office involve itself in this issue. With all due respect to Commissioner Kelly, we believe that the risk of coercive interrogation practices is substantial and that videotaping would yield enormous benefits to both suspects and the City. We therefore ask to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss this matter.

Sincerely,

Christopher Dunn
Associate Legal Director

Donna Lieberman
Executive Director

c: Commissioner Raymond Kelly
Stephen Hammerman, Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters