Floyd Bledsoe spent 16 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. If Senate Bill 112 had been in place, Bledsoe may never have suffered such a terrible injustice.
Senate Bill 112 was signed into law last week by Gov. Sam Brownback. The bill requires that police interrogations be electronically recorded if the interrogation involves a homicide or a felony sex offense. It also requires that confessions be electronically recorded when they involve a homicide or felony sex offense.
The bill had the support of law enforcement. It passed the Senate unanimously, and the House vote was 115 to 9. It was appropriate for Gov. Sam Brownback to sign the bill into law.
Floyd Bledsoe supported the bill also. Bledsoe was sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 murder of Zetta Camille Arfmann, even though Bledsoe’s brother, Tom Bledsoe, had confessed to the murder.
Floyd Bledsoe was released in 2015 after DNA testing showed that his brother, who had committed suicide and left a note again confessing to the crime, had indeed killed Arfmann.
Floyd Bledsoe believes if jurors had heard his brother’s confession to police and heard Floyd’s own denial during police interrogations, that he might never have been convicted. But police did not record Tom Bledsoe’s interrogation or confession. Not all of Floyd’s interrogations were recorded either.
What happened to Bledsoe was a travesty. There are no guarantees Senate Bill 112 would have changed the outcome, but certainly jurors can make more informed decisions based on actual recordings of police interrogations and confessions.
Senate Bill 112 also enhances penalties for nondrug felonies against police officers if the officer is on duty or if the perpetrator knows the victim is a police officer. The measure also lowers sentences for some drug crimes and creates the crime of aggravated domestic battery.
All are appropriate steps to protect law enforcement and the public. And it was fitting that Brownback signed the bill into law on Kansas Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Day.