A report released today by Pennsylvania’s Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions to the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee establishes the need for reform in Pennsylvania to strengthen investigations and reduce wrongful convictions.
The 328-page report details Pennsylvania’s wrongful convictions, analyzes the causes and outlines reforms ranging from eyewitness identification to confessions to access to post-conviction DNA testing that can improve the state’s criminal justice system.
“Wrongful convictions are to criminal justice what train wrecks are to transportation. While tragic, they present an incredible opportunity to identify causes and remedies. The remedies will not only reduce wrongful convictions but also increase the accuracy of criminal investigations and strengthen prosecutions. At their core, these are public safety reforms that enhance justice,” said Peter J. Neufeld, Co-Director at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law.
The recommendations in the Report of the Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions include:
• Legislation requiring improvements to eyewitness identification procedures;
• Legislation requiring the electronic recording of interrogations for a limited number of crimes;
• Legislation to enhance the reliability of informant testimony;
• Amending the existing post-conviction DNA testing statute to enable access to deserving defendants, and to better utilize DNA database comparisons in order to enable identification of real perpetrators where wrongful conviction is claimed;
• Legislation requiring the preservation of biological evidence in sexual and other violent assaults;
• Creating a statewide system for adequately funding indigent defense services;
• Monetary compensation for people who are wrongfully convicted based on the number of years incarcerated;
• Improving internal oversight for prosecutorial offices and sanctions for purposeful or otherwise egregious prosecutorial misconduct; and
• Creating a forensic advisory board to advise the Commonwealth on the best delivery of forensic services to state and local government.