With less than one month left in the legislative session, criminal justice advocates rallied Tuesday in support of legislative proposals including a bill to prevent police from lying to minors during interrogations.
Representatives of the Connecticut ACLU and the Innocence Project gathered on the South side of the state Capitol building to push for passage of a pair of bills before the legislative session adjourns on June 7.
The proposals include a bill to make criminal confessions secured from people under 18 years-old largely inadmissible in court if police officers used deceptive tactics like lying about evidence, the law, or making misleading promises in exchange for leniency.
The bill cleared the state Senate last week and is awaiting action in the House of Representatives, where a similar proposal expired due to inaction last year.
“We have less than a month to go to get a lot done,” Terri Ricks, of the ACLU, said. “We are going to make sure that fairness, transparency, accountability and justice is at the top of the agenda for what our elected representatives address before the session ends.”
The proposal would see Connecticut join a small number of states like Illinois and Oregon, which have taken steps to rein in so-called deceptive interrogation tactics by police. Law enforcement officials are generally permitted to present untrue statements to suspects under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 1969.
The bill provides a pathway for officials to make confessions secured using deceptive tactics admissible if the state can prove that the admission was not induced by the tactics, which did not undermine the reliability of the suspect’s statements.
While supporters of the proposal point to incidents of false confessions and wrongful convictions resulting from deceptive tactics, opponents argue that the change would deprive police of flexibility during interrogations.
A similar bill advanced out of the state Senate last year only to expire on the House calendar at the end of the legislative session. On Tuesday, Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Bridgeport Democrat who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee, said he hoped to see the House pass the bill in the remaining weeks of this session. He said he expected the proposal would ultimately save the state money by curbing wrongful convictions.
“I would absolutely like to do it,” Stafstrom said. “It’s a really important bill and it’s a net cost-saving bill to the state.”