NY to Study Wrongful Convictions

There's no doubt about this:

Manhattan attorney Bernice Leber, named president of the 74,000-member [New York State Bar] association on Monday, says that for every wrongful conviction that surfaces, unknown numbers of others remain unfairly resolved.

That's because most wrongful convictions have been uncovered by advances in DNA technology, while most crimes do not involve DNA evidence. Those who minimize the problem of wrongful convictions, claiming that "only" 200 exonerations have occurred (as of April) fail to grasp that fact.

Kudos, then, to the NY State Bar Association for establishing a task force to "analyze New York cases that led to wrongful convictions and hold hearings." Those states that have not done so should conduct their own studies to suggest means of assuring that their criminal justice systems do not convict the innocent.

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    It seems to me (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by Steve M on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 01:10:00 PM EST
    that there would be a lot of political resistance to studying wrongful convictions, regardless of how much sense it makes, simply because of the likelihood that where there's a wrongful conviction, there's also likely to be official misconduct that was swept under the rug in the past.

    Or just simple human error. (5.00 / 3) (#7)
    by madamab on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 02:01:34 PM EST
    People don't like to admit when they've made mistakes.

    maybe... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kredwyn on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 02:02:02 PM EST
    "Better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer," said English jurist William Blackstone.

    I wonder if he would have said that (none / 0) (#9)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 02:27:30 PM EST
    if, for example, ten persons guilty of rape, torture and murder had escaped and then raped, tortured and murdered his ten daughters.

    Note that I don't necessarily disagree with what he said, but I do think there's much more to it than his blithe bon mot.


    I think that it's probably a good idea (none / 0) (#11)
    by kredwyn on Thu Jun 05, 2008 at 09:20:11 AM EST
    to make sure that the folks behind those bars are actually guilty of the crime they were convicted of.

    Good thinking. (none / 0) (#12)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Jun 05, 2008 at 11:54:07 AM EST
    When I moved to NY 13 years ago... (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by ineedalife on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 01:29:49 PM EST
    one of the first stories I remember was a scandal where some NY state detectives upstate were planting fingerprints to bust people. It was only uncovered because one of the cops applied to the CIA and thought they would be impressed by this talent of his. Nowadays, maybe they would be.

    The estimates then were that hundreds of cases might be affected but I don't recall the follow up.

    The most suprising part to me.... (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by kdog on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 01:38:31 PM EST
    is that the CIA wasn't impressed...seems such a talent is right up their alley:)

    The guy was too qualified (4.00 / 1) (#6)
    by madamab on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 02:00:06 PM EST
    for Bush's CIA.

    Now, had he gone to Liberty University, he mighta had a shot. ;-)


    Cool.... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 01:12:28 PM EST
    but after we get the innocent people outta their cages, can we work on getting the people guilty of "crimes in name only" outta theirs?

    I know change comes slow in our system, and that's a good thing, but it comes so slow when it comes to criminal justice reform that it feels like it will never get here.  We were "tough on crime" when I was born, and I fear we'll be "tough on crime" when I die, and we'll never be "smart on crime" in my lifetime.

    Much like foreign policy reform...there is alotta irrational fear to overcome.  

    Sounds reasonable to me. (none / 0) (#4)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 01:34:50 PM EST

    Interesting Timing (none / 0) (#10)
    by The Maven on Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 03:40:06 PM EST
    for this, especially as how The New York Times has a major column by Jim Dwyer on the front page of the Metro Section, "DNA Test Offers Inmate a Chance at Freedom After 16 ½ Years".  Two sentences before the break sum up the absurdity of the current system perfectly:
    Even though he finished his minimum sentence more than four years ago, Mr. Wagstaffe remains imprisoned because he has refused to appear before the parole board and express remorse for a crime he says he had nothing to do with. He has been fighting to get DNA tests on the evidence in the case since 2004; on Tuesday, the Legal Aid Society agreed to pay for them.
    One can only hope that we can get the necessary reforms passed in NYS, if not in the waning days of the current legislative session, then next year, with (in all likelihood) a Democratic majority in the State Senate.  If all goes well, the Bar Association task force should be able to make its recommendations to a receptive audience in Albany.