Thursday, June 4, 2009

NY Exoneree: Now Is the Time for Criminal Justice Reform

New York exoneree Korey Wise writes in the Spanish-language daily newspaper El Diario today about the years he spent in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and his disappointment that New York still has not addressed the factors that contributed his wrongful conviction. He writes:

I was incarcerated for nearly 15 years before I was finally exonerated. When I share my story with people now, they almost always ask if I am angry. I would be lying if I said I’m not angry sometimes for the time I lost and can never get back. But more than anything, I am angry that more hasn’t been done to fix our criminal justice system so this doesn’t happen to other people.

My case and the 23 other DNA exonerations in New York reveal serious problems in the state’s criminal justice system – problems that profoundly impact individuals’ lives and entire communities, and demand serious solutions.  

Right now, Governor David Paterson and leaders in the State Legislature are considering reforms that can prevent wrongful convictions and help exonerate innocent people. Before the end of June, they will decide whether to act on reforms that can make our justice system more fair, accurate and reliable.

It is critical that our elected officials take action this year. They should pass a package of legislation that would make it easier for prisoners to prove their innocence, improve eyewitness identification procedures and require that interrogations be recorded.
Included in the package of legislation under consideration is a requirement that state law enforcement agencies videotape interrogations in felony cases. Wise was a teenager when he was convicted and he and his four co-defendants allegedly confessed to involvement in the crimes. Although their confessions were videotaped, the complete interrogations were not. Recording of interrogations is standard practice in more than 500 jurisdictions around the country and has been proven to assist law enforcement in investigation and prevent false confessions.

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