News 05.15.09

Three Years of Freedom

Three years ago tomorrow,

Doug Warney

was freed from a New York prison after serving nine years for a murder he didn’t commit. Warney, who has a history of mental health issues, was convicted based in part on a false confession he allegedly made after 12 hours of questioning. About 25% of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing nationwide have involved false confessions or admissions.

At the time of Warney’s exoneration in 2006, Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld said it should lead law enforcement agencies across the state to begin recording interrogations. Three years later, although many individual agencies in the state have begun to record interrogations, New York is still

one of 36 states

with no law requiring recordings.

“These DNA results don’t just show that Doug Warney is innocent – they reveal criminal conduct on the part of at least two Rochester police officers, and they demonstrate tunnel vision on the part of police and prosecutors who ignored compelling evidence that the confession was bogus,” said Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project. “This case should be a clarion call for every law enforcement agency in the state to begin recording police interrogations for serious crimes.”

Earlier this month, the chief judge of New York’s highest court said he would create

a new permanent task force

to examine causes of wrongful convictions – like false confessions – and recommend reforms to prevent wrongful convictions like Warney’s.

Neufeld said this task force could be a driving force to finally bring about changes like recorded interrogations in New York, but that it is also critical that the state legislature take action.

“While this is a major step forward, it is one piece of the whole. There are major systemic weaknesses demanding immediate action, and we will continue working with the Governor, Attorney General and Legislature to advance critical reforms in this legislative session that can prevent wrongful convictions. The task force Judge Lippman is creating does not supplant other efforts – it complements them and makes them even more critical.”


Other Exoneration Anniversaries This Week:

Sunday:

Neil Miller

, Massachusetts (Served 9.5 Years, Exonerated 5/1/0/2000)

Monday:

Curtis McCarty

, Oklahoma (Served 21 Years, Exonerated 5/11/2007)

Thursday:

Josiah Sutton

, Texas (Served 4.5 Years, Exonerated 5/14/04)

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