Brentford Ferreira, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor, and professor and project head Laurie Levenson recently penned language for a bill that would provide defense attorneys and their investigators with the ability to secretly record conversations with witnesses in criminal cases. The idea is that surreptitiously recording witnesses could help defense attorneys recognize and prove that a witness has given conflicting testimony. That could pave the way for defendants to prove their innocence or help wrongfully incarcerated defendants clear their names.
"Faulty eyewitness identifications result in the convictions of innocent people," the authors note in the would-be bill's statement of purpose. "Witnesses often recant their previous identifications."
Ferreira and a group of Loyola law students hope to convince a lawmaker to introduce the draft bill in next year's legislative session.
"If law enforcement's taping is focusing on ongoing criminal activity, then it might make some sense as to why they have additional investigative powers," she [Levenson] said. "However, if all they are doing is secretly taking witness statements, then it is unclear why they should have a tool that the defense does not have. Both sides should want to get the true testimony of the witness."