Case Study: South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED)
CaseCracker Customer Since 2017
“When you have a video where jurors can hear and see the suspect making the statement, it is powerful evidence.” Mark Huguley, ret. SLED agent
Headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has been serving citizens and law enforcement since 1935. Made up of over 320 agents and operating in all of South Carolina’s 46 counties, the agency’s primary mission is to provide “quality manpower and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies across the state and to conduct investigations on behalf of the state as directed by the governor and attorney general.” Included among SLED’s many duties and statewide oversight is the operation of South Carolina’s criminal justice information system, coordination of counter-terrorism efforts, investigation of arson and explosive devices, and the operation of the state’s forensic lab and specialized tactical response units.
CaseCracker: Allowing Law Enforcement to Change with the Times
Like any forward-thinking law enforcement agency, SLED knows that by embracing technology, they’ll have more successful outcomes from more investigations. For decades, the statewide agency conducted custodial interviews the old-fashioned way—without any audio or video support—until they discovered that juries wanted more. “They can take a picture or a video on their cell phone, and they think, ‘Why can’t you do that?’” says SLED chief Mark Keel, who’s homicide force uses CaseCracker portable units in the field. “As technology has changed, SLED has changed with it.”
Keel and his team have witnessed the powerful difference of using CaseCracker’s interview recording systems firsthand. Back in 2015, a jury failed to reach a verdict in the case of Michael Slager, a former North Charleston police officer who shot and killed an unarmed African-American man, Walter Scott. SLED agents had provided a written, but not video recorded, account of Slager’s statement, a choice Slager’s attorney questioned at trial. With the help of CaseCracker, SLED agents now make every effort to treat interview recording as standard operating procedure and have more successful outcomes in court.
Undeniable, Case-Winning Evidence
When it comes to written statements versus first-hand audio and video recordings of a custodial interview, there’s truly no contest about which provides the better, more irrefutable evidence. Says Columbia defense attorney Joe McCulloch of recorded interviews: “[They protect] the innocent through an accurate portrayal of what was said. [They protect] a guilty person from having statements attributed to them they didn’t make. Capturing things in real time in audio and video is the best evidence there can be.” Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook agrees, adding, “Videoed interviews keep everybody honest. Tapes don’t lie.”
CaseCracker Puts Jurors in the Interview Room
It’s more than just honesty that recorded custodial interviews support, however. They also give juries the unique experience of being in the interview room with a suspect, allowing them to draw their own conclusions about a suspect’s behavior. “I’ve had a number of murders where the video not only captures what somebody says, but how they say it,” says 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard. “It’s an eye-opener for the jurors to see someone talk about killing people, and it doesn’t seem to register an emotional effect in their voice or expression.”
The kind of firsthand testimony that a recorded interview provides also saves time and resources. Former SLED agent Mark Huguley praises CaseCracker systems for ending the legal back and forth so many investigators are familiar with. “[Everyone] has had a suspect say, ‘That’s not what I said’ or ‘I didn’t say it that way,’ but when you have a video where jurors can hear and see the suspect making the statement, it is powerful evidence and hard for the suspect to deny.”