The New York State Bar Association and the Innocence Project on Wednesday urged state lawmakers to pass reform legislation that could significantly reduce the likelihood of innocent New Yorkers going to prison for crimes they did not commit.
Two pending bills would require police agencies to videotape all custodial interrogations and adopt a more objective way of conducting police lineups for eyewitnesses.
At a press conference in Albany, NYSBA President Vincent E. Doyle III and Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck were joined by five New York men who collectively spent more than 90 years in prison for crimes they did not commit; a Texas rape victim who mistakenly identified the wrong suspect; one of the three Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape in 2006; and a North Carolina police captain whose department has successfully adopted interrogation and eyewitness reforms.
The Innocence Project released the results of its Freedom of Information Law requests of more than 500 New York police agencies seeking information about their eyewitness identification policies.
“New York has the third largest number of wrongful convictions in the country,” Scheck said. “When state legislators in March voted to expand the state’s DNA database, they hailed the move as wrongful conviction reform. But if they are really concerned about protecting the innocent, they will pass legislation this session to prevent misidentifications and false confessions, two of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. These reforms help protect all New Yorkers, from crime victims to innocent suspects, to the public at large because they enhance the ability of police to find the real perpetrators.”
These reforms were endorsed by the bar association’s Task Force on Wrongful Convictions, which issued a report in April 2009. (www.nysba.org/wcreport)