News 05.19.11

New York Can Do Better to Prevent Wrongful Convictions

An op-ed in today’s Albany Times-Union by Innocence Project Policy Director Stephen Saloom examines New York’s failure to prevent wrongful convictions.

In 11 of the 27 post-conviction DNA exonerations in New York, the real perpetrators were identified after the wrongful conviction was finally recognized through DNA testing. Five of these real perpetrators were convicted of a total of 10 subsequent violent crimes, including five murders and three rapes.

These serious crimes can be prevented if we take greater care not to wrongfully convict and imprison innocent people. Fortunately, there is a large body of robust, scientific research, police practice and jurisdictional experience clearly demonstrating that simple reforms to the system can not only greatly minimize the possibility of wrongful conviction, but also increase the likelihood of apprehending the guilty — and thus prevent future crimes.

Criminal justice reforms that are needed in New York include: identification policies requiring that lineups be conducted by an officer who doesn’t know the identity of the suspect and informing the witness that the officer doesn’t know, mandatory recording of entire interrogations in felony cases and compensation for the exonerated who have plead guilty or falsely confessed. But there has been resistance from law enforcement.

Initial opposition from law enforcement to these reforms is not uncommon. They represent a departure from accustomed practice and raise fears about practicability and cost. But these time-tested techniques have proven effective, cost-neutral and are now generally embraced by law enforcement where they have been mandated in state after state.

For years the Assembly has passed legislation to embrace these changes, but the powers that be have persuaded the Senate and our recent governors to prevent their enactment. Could it be that the dysfunction of Albany has so crippled the state that we cannot adopt the same best practices being adopted by states across the nation to protect the innocent and in doing so, increase the accuracy of criminal investigations, and strengthen criminal prosecutions?

If New York can’t even get this done, then we’re all in a lot of trouble.

Read the full op-ed

here

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