News 06.16.14

VT Governor to Sign into Law New Wrongful Conviction Reforms


Mandates New Police Procedures Proven to Prevent Misidentifications and Reduce False Confessions


 

Contact: Paul Cates,

pcates@innocenceproject.org


 

(Montpelier, VT; June 16, 2014)- Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin will hold a ceremony on June 17th to sign into law recently passed reforms to preventing wrongful convictions. Senate bill 184 requires the blind administration of photo line-ups in order to prevent misidentifications and electronic recording of interrogations for violent crimes in order to prevent false confessions. The bill was passed by both houses on May 6th and most provisions will go into effect immediately. The bill signing ceremony will take place at 3PM on June 17th at the Statehouse in Montpelier.

 

“With the passage of this law, Vermont is leading the nation in embracing proven reforms that prevent wrongful convictions,” said Rebecca Brown, Director of State Policy Reform for the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo Law School. “We are especially grateful to Senator Dick Sears for his exceptional leadership in helping to pass these reforms that protect the innocent and help ensure that the real perpetrators of crimes are apprehended.”

 

Drew Pappone, a Staff Attorney with the New England Innocence Project who will be attending the ceremony, added, “Vermont has tackled the two leading causes of wrongful convictions. This not only strengthens Vermont’s judiciary and law enforcement but also makes all Vermonters safer while serving as a model for the rest of the region.”

 

Eyewitness identification is the leading contributor to wrongful convictions, playing a role in nearly 75% of the 316 wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence. Senate bill 184 requires police officers to conduct photo lineups blindly, meaning that the officer who conducts the procedure is unaware of the identity of the suspect. This prevents the officer from intentionally or unintentionally influencing the witness who is viewing the lineup.

 

False confessions have played a role in more than 25% of the 316 DNA exonerations nationwide. Senate bill 184 requires police to electronically record interrogations for violent crimes, creating a permanent record of the interrogation so that juries can better determine if the witness was coerced into making a confession.

 

Vermont has implemented other important wrongful conviction reforms. In 2007, the state passed several other wrongful conviction reforms, including a bill granting access to post-conviction DNA testing for individuals claiming innocence after being convicted of certain crimes. That same year, the state passed a law compensating wrongfully convicted individuals in Vermont with between $30,000 and $60,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment.

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