One of six state commissions charged with reviewing criminal justice policy to prevent future wrongful convictions, the Pennsylvania Innocence Commission is scheduled to meet for the first time on March 26. An article today profiles Gary Asteak, a public defender who will be one of 30 commission members.
Although the first committee meeting is nearly a month away, Asteak, a public defender for 25 years until his retirement from that job a few years ago, has prepared an agenda. ''Of particular interest to me is the quality of indigent defense services,'' he said.
Most public defender offices, he said, have ''no uniform standards for services, no limit on the number of cases a public defender can have, and frequently no review of the quality of work the public defenders are doing. There's no special training.''
Asteak has three other areas of concern: Procedures used to identify suspects, including live or photo lineups; methods used to introduce confessions to a jury; and use of snitches.
Police, he said, should be monitored in how they prepare witnesses before using them to identify a suspect.
Read the full story
. (The Morning Call – Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, 03/01/07, Payment required for full article)
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Previous blog posts: Texas and New York are among the states considering innocence commissions. An editorial yesterday in San Antonio
joined the called for a Texas commission
. A New York Times editorial in January
supported the commissions nationwide