Prevent Wrongful Convictions in New York

prison cell

Target: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Goal: Adopt proposed measures for criminal justice reform that could save people from being wrongfully convicted.

The Innocence Project is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1992 and has since exonerated 289 wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system. The organization’s website outlines several aspects of the current criminal justice system that are contributing to the large number of wrongfully convicted felons, including eyewitness misidentification, false confessions and bad lawyering. Despite the Innocent Project’s efforts, exonorees still spend a tragic average of 13.5 years behind bars for a crime that they did not commit.

According to a May 24 Buffalo News editorial, New York State has one of the worst records of wrongful convictions in the country. It also points out that the state is reluctant to accept the measures proposed by the Innocence Project that other states have already adopted. One of these measures would change the lineup procedures. Studies found that there is a much higher chance of false eyewitness misidentification if the victim is shown all suspects lined up next to each other. The victim may compare the suspects and look for the best fit while the actual criminal may not even be part of the lineup. When the victim is shown only one person at a time, there is a much smaller risk of false identification. It is a subtle change in procedures that could save many from a fate they do not deserve. Yet, New York State is not ready to make these changes.

One of the reasons for New York’s reluctance to reform the criminal justice system is that “voters would perceive such measures as being unfriendly to police and of benefit to criminals.” These are misperceptions, however. The proposed procedures would not make it easier for criminals to get away, but would make it much more unlikely for innocent people to end up behind bars for crimes they did not commit. The community has an important stake in reform: if an innocent person is convicted, the actual criminal can continue to make new victims.

By signing this petition, you will help urge the New York governor to support the measures proposed by the Innocence Project that could save many from being wrongfully convicted.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Cuomo,

The Innocence Project has helped exonerate 289 wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice. Many of the changes in the police investigation that the organization promotes are subtle and easy to implement. Studies have shown that using a double-blind serial lineup procedure is much less prone to false identification by the victim than the traditional criminal lineup procedure. False confessions can be prevented by changing the interrogation protocols. These are not expensive measures. These are realistic reforms that many states have already implemented.

The State of New York has a bad record of wrongful convictions. Innocent people have served sentences up to 23 years for crimes they did not commit. While these people may receive monetary compensation, no sum of money can compensate for the hardship that they had to endure. It must also alarm you that for each of these exonerees, an actual criminal walked free and in some cases made new victims. New York has a significant interest in reforming the criminal justice system. These reforms will not make it easier for real criminals to get away. These reforms serve the incredibly important purpose of preventing innocent people from spending their lives behind bars.

The Assembly is already in and I urge you to support the reforms recommended by the Innocence Project as well. Please stop the wrongful conviction of innocent people and prevent the real criminals from walking away free.

Sincerely,

[Your Name here]

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41 Signatures

  • Hermann Kastner
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