The State Bar Association commends the Assembly Codes Committee for reporting A.5317-A (O'Donnell), legislation proposed by the Association to reform the criminal procedure law regarding eyewitness identification procedures.
The bill would require police agencies to adopt "double-blind" lineup procedures to remove the possibility that a police officer - either deliberately or inadvertently - might influence a witness in selecting a particular suspect. This can be accomplished by having the lineup overseen by an officer who does not know the identity of the actual suspect. The bill is part of a legislative package by the Association to address the root causes of wrongful convictions in New York
In 2009, the Bar Association's Task Force on Wrongful Convictions identified several factors contributing to wrongful convictions. Among its recommendations: videotaping interrogations in order to discourage coerced confessions; improving police lineups to achieve more accurate eyewitness testimony; and requiring prosecutors to turn over more evidence that might help clear a suspect.
A report this week by the University of Michigan and Northwestern University law schools highlighted the fact that wrongful convictions are a serious problem for the criminal justice system. During the past 23 years, more than 2,000 individuals in the United States were falsely convicted of serious crimes-and later exonerated.
Now is the time for New York to step up and take a leadership role on this issue. The Legislature and the Governor should put this topic on their priority list and pass remedial legislation this session.
Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services & Public Affairs