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CHICAGO (AP) - Investigators will be required to tape interrogations of murder suspects under legislation Gov. Rod Blagojevich said is key to reforming the state's death penalty system.

Blagojevich - whose predecessor gained national headlines for his attack on capital punishment - scheduled a news conference Thursday afternoon to sign the bill, which requires police to use audio- or videotape when they question murder suspects.

Law enforcement agencies will have two years to come up with recording procedures. The bill is one of several passed this spring to address a system that former Gov. George Ryan had declared deeply flawed.

After capital punishment resumed in Illinois in 1977, 13 men were released from the state's death row after they were found to have been wrongly convicted. In response, Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions in 2000 and then commuted every death sentence in the state before leaving office this January.

"As a former prosecutor, I had some serious reservations about requiring police interviews to be taped," Blagojevich said in a statement. "However, when there is a system that can allow an innocent person to be sent to death row based on a questionable confession, we have a moral obligation to intervene."

Blagojevich has not decided whether to sign other measures passed by the Legislature. Even if he does, he said, he is not sure the changes will make him comfortable enough with Illinois' capital punishment system to lift Ryan's moratorium.

Two other states, Minnesota and Alaska, already require tapings. Because courts and not legislatures required those states to do so, the Illinois law would be the first of its kind in the country.

The taping is intended to reduce the chance that confessions are coerced or even tortured out of suspects, a claim made in several cases in which condemned men later were freed from death row in Illinois.

Also Thursday, Blagojevich plans to sign a bill requiring police to record the race of people they pull over during traffic stops. The state Transportation Department then would review the data for signs of racial bias.

The governor also plans to sign legislation allowing people to have their arrest records expunged if they are later found to be innocent.

2003-07-17     15:11:49 GMT


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