Press Release 02.28.17

Innocence Project Advocates for Governor’s Budget Proposal to Prevent False Confessions and Misidentifications in New York State

By Innocence Staff

Contact: Julia Lucivero, jlucivero@innocenceproject.org, 212-364-5173

(Albany, NY – February 28, 2017) – Today, the Innocence Project and several New York-based exonerees joined together at the New York State capitol to urge the New York Legislature to support Governor Cuomo’s FY18 budget proposal, which includes statewide reforms that would greatly reduce wrongful convictions by improving the way police conduct interrogations and identification procedures. Specifically, it would mandate law enforcement to record interrogations and adopt standardized best practices for conducting police lineups, respective safeguards to prevent false confessions and eyewitness misidentifications. This is the first time that these issues have been included in the governor’s budget.

“Eyewitness misidentifications and false confessions have played a role in all of New York’s 30 wrongful convictions proven by DNA evidence, which led to exonerations.  The governor’s plan includes scientifically supported identification practices and recording of interrogations which would address both of these leading contributors to wrongful conviction in the state of New York,” said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “The reforms offered in the governor’s proposal are key ingredients to a reliable and accurate criminal justice system and will go a long way in protecting New Yorkers from the unique horror of wrongful conviction.”

Rebecca Brown, policy director of the Innocence Project added: “We applaud the governor for including in his budget proposal these police practice reforms, which have taken hold across the country.  Nearly half the states in the nation—from Oregon to North Carolina—require the recording of interrogations, and 20 states now employ the blind administration of lineups, including states as diverse as Texas, Georgia and Illinois. Our sister states of New Jersey and Connecticut have already implemented both reforms statewide. The Department of Justice has adopted both sets of reforms for all federal law enforcement agencies.”

The New York Hotel Trades Council has recently placed their strong support and advocacy efforts behind this critical budget proposal. Hotel Trades Council President Peter Ward told the New York Daily News: “As someone who has spent decades leading a union whose membership is mostly people of color, it’s appalling to see hundreds of New Yorkers, disproportionately people of color, have their lives stolen away because they were mistaken for someone else.”

In addition to the governor calling for these changes in the budget and in his State of the State agenda, Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals Janet DiFiore recently expressed strong support for Governor Cuomo’s criminal justice reforms in her State of the Judiciary Address, specifying the need for bolstering identification lineup procedures and recording interrogations.

Over the past three decades, 223 wrongful convictions have been overturned in the state.

Two of the leading contributing factors in these cases were false confessions and eyewitness misidentification.

Despite these startling statistics, New York remains one of 26 states that has yet to require recording of interrogations and one of 31 states that still lack safeguards to prevent eyewitness misidentifications. The Innocence Project is extremely hopeful that 2017 will be the year that New York joins the list of states that have chosen to take legislative action in the name of justice.

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