The New York State Bar
Association (NYSBA) today called on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature
to enact measures to reform New York State law regarding discovery in criminal
justice matters, as part of a final budget agreement for fiscal year 2018-19.
The Governor and
legislative leaders have indicated that they expect to have the budget process
completed by the April 1 deadline.
routinely receive limited information which often is turned over so late that
it is virtually impossible to properly investigate, to secure and use any
potentially exculpatory evidence, to fairly weigh a guilty plea offer, or to
develop a trial strategy,” said NYSBA President Sharon Stern Gerstman in a
letter to the Governor and legislative leaders. “As a result, lack of discovery
under current New York law prevents innocent defendants from mounting a proper
defense, and delays the acceptance of a plea by defendants who are guilty.”
NYSBA’s proposal on
disclosure of details regarding witnesses and evidence is contained in
legislation currently under consideration by the Assembly and Senate (A.7292
[Lentol]/S.6848 [Avella]). Gerstman said that this legislation “strikes the
right balance, allowing effective provisions to protect witnesses while
affording defendants the information to which they are rightly entitled.”
Gerstman noted that NYSBA
“is mindful of and shares concern over the safety of witnesses” but stated that
“safety concerns cannot impede defendants' constitutional right to
cross-examine these witnesses in open court, during trial.”
In all of the other
states in which the 10 largest cities in the US are located witness information
is subject to discovery unless court orders otherwise, and there are no
reported problems regarding witness security.
NYSBA’s policy “was
developed by a task force composed of members who are judges, prosecutors and
defense attorneys from all over the state,” Gerstman added. “Our proposal was
vetted among our members with extensive expertise regarding the criminal
justice system, as well as other aspects of the legal system.”
For the complete text of Gerstman’s letter to the Governor and legislative leaders, click here.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
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