Schwarzenegger Should Sign Bills to Address Wrongful Convictions

Herman Atkins served 12 years before DNA testing showed he didn't commit the rape and robbery that led to his conviction. Atkins considers himself lucky that there was DNA available for new testing in his case. He speaks from the heart when he urges Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign two bills on his desk. One would help prevent wrongful convictions and the other would help the wrongfully convicted.

The first bill, SB 1589, would require corroboration for jailhouse informant testimony. Informants have good reasons to lie: they are getting something in exchange for what they say. Yet, they are persuasive. In fact, informants are the leading cause of wrongful convictions in death penalty cases. We already require corroboration for co-defendant informants; SB 1589 simply extends that same precaution to jailhouse informants.

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TalkLeft has frequently written about the unreliability of snitch testimony. Requiring corroboration of the self-serving testimony given by criminal snitches would be a valuable tool to guard against wrongful prosecutions.

The second bill, AB 2937, would provide more services to wrongfully convicted people and remove some of the hurdles to compensation for the innocent. Currently, wrongfully convicted people receive even less assistance than parolees who actually committed the crime. ... The Arthur Carmona Act would change that by ensuring that wrongfully convicted people have the same access to resources that ex-offenders receive when released from prison. It would also require that criminal records relating to a wrongful conviction are sealed, and would remove procedural hurdles to compensation for the factually innocent

Similar bills were passed last year, but Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed them,

causing even a commentator on Foxnews.com to lead with the headline: “Schwarzenegger Vetoes Justice.” Now the Governor can redeem himself, at least partially.

Two other bills that need to be passed would address the problems of eyewitness misidentification and false confessions. All four reform bills were based on recommendations by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.

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    Well, as someone (none / 0) (#1)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 02:31:59 PM EST
    who helped get some CA legislation passed this year, my suggestion would be to flood Chris Kahn's email with letters of support for these legislative bills.

    Mr. Kahn is Swarzenegger's deputy chief of staff and legislative secretary.


    TL/moderators: His name and email are very much public info.

    Query: this blog examines (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 05:11:56 PM EST
    criminal justice issues from the viewpoint of the defense.  Do the criminal defense attorneys here sometimes represent persons who "snitch"?

    What the hell? (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 05:31:45 PM EST
    It would also require that criminal records relating to a wrongful conviction are sealed

    Hold on a sec...you mean that isn't the case already?  Forget about sealed, anything that would potentially label a wrongfully convicted person a criminal should be burned.

    fwiw, (none / 0) (#4)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Sep 12, 2008 at 11:31:29 AM EST
    Here are the actual bills: SB 1589 & AB 2937.