Two New York State lawmakers today introduced a bill that would help state prisoners present evidence of their innocence in order to be exonerated in cases involving evidence other than DNA.
“New York is behind the curve when it comes to giving the courts an opportunity to reverse wrongful convictions in non-DNA cases. Experts have proven that DNA exonerations represent only a small fraction of all wrongful convictions, that’s why innocence claims must be fully and fairly aired,” said sponsor Sen. Eric T. Schneiderman. “This ‘actual innocence’ legislation is about justice and fairness – it ensures that innocent people don’t spend decades behind bars while real criminals go free.”
The legislation would allow courts to overturn a conviction on the grounds of “actual innocence” is the defendant shows “reliable and relevant” proof that “conclusively establishes” his or her innocence. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries joined Schneiderman in sponsoring the legislation.
Innocence Project Managing Attorney David Loftis spoke today at a press conference unveiling the new bill.
“Experts estimate that DNA testing is possible in just five to ten percent of all criminal cases – and even among those cases, evidence is often lost or destroyed and cannot be tested to prove innocence,” Loftis said. “This proposed law is critical for helping people prove their innocence when DNA testing is not possible.”