Barry Scheck Testifies Before Congress on Pretrial Innocence Reforms
03.26.21 By Innocence Staff
Today, Barry Scheck, co-founder and special counsel at the Innocence Project testified before the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in support of the long-standing policy work being done around pretrial deficiencies that contribute to wrongful convictions.
“I appreciate Subcommittee Chairwoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Chairman Jerrold Nadler for convening today’s important hearing,” said Mr. Scheck. “Preventing wrongful convictions starts with many of the reforms we at the Innocence Project have long advocated for to make the system more just. We urge Congress to adopt these recommendations relating to pretrial reform, from robust discovery to holistic defense.”
At the hearing — “From Miranda to Gideon: A Call for Pretrial Reform” — Mr. Scheck outlined the protocols necessary to pursue accurate and fair outcomes in the criminal legal process. His testimony also addressed practices and techniques that should be adopted or eradicated such as the prevention of false confessions, implementing more holistic defense, and ensuring fair discovery processes.
False confessions contributed to the wrongful convictions of 30% DNA exonerees in the United States. The Innocence Project advocates for the codification of policies requiring recorded interrogations and banning police deception, the latter of which is currently legal across the country. The Innocence Project also advocates for pretrial reliability hearings which are critical in assessing the validity and authenticity of confessions.
Innocence Project Director of Policy Rebecca Brown echoed Mr. Scheck’s testimony, “We urge Congress to pursue these changes in the pretrial system, including ensuring open file discovery practices and reliability assessments of confession evidence; prohibiting law enforcements’ deceptive techniques in interrogations; addressing the trial penalty; and holistic representation. These changes — rooted in the presumption of innocence, a pillar of our justice system — can establish a more just and fair criminal legal process.”