Law: Smile, You're on the D.A.'s Camera

Taped confessions prove a prime tool in the war on crime

In a gritty N.Y.P.D. interrogation room, the camera pans over the usual cast (a detective, a stenographer, a prosecutor) before zooming in on the suspect. Clifford Brighton, 22, with pockmarks and a bruised eye, describes how he held up a supermarket earlier that day using a hostage: "I grabbed the cop and stuck a gun in him and took him into the store."

An old Kojak episode? A clip from Hill Street Blues? No, the dramatic scene is a real confession on videotape. It is one that may be repeated 500...

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