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Will prosecutorial misconduct commission become a reality in NY?

Even though the legislative session may be over in New York, there are still some bills waiting for Gov. Cuomo’s signature, including one that seeks to create a commission charged with investigating allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

This particular bill — otherwise known as Senate Bill S2412D — was sent to the Governor’s desk on August 8, and many groups, including several past victims of wrongful convictions, are urging him to sign it.

Details of the proposed commission

The purpose of this legislation is to create a commission that will:

  • Review complaints of prosecutorial misconduct in New York and, if necessary, serve as a disciplinary entity
  • Enforce the prosecutorial obligation to follow acceptable standards of conduct
  • Establish accountability for prosecutorial conduct during the performance of their powers and duties as prosecutors

As stated by lawmakers, “It is vitally important there exist in law a tribunal to oversee [prosecutorial] discretion, to protect the rights of defendants and make certain they are not

violated. The liberties at stake in criminal prosecutions call for this level of scrutiny.”

While we still don’t know if Gov. Cuomo will sign this bill, many groups are urging him to do so. In fact, according to a Daily News report, a coalition of more than 100 individuals and groups, including 16 past victims of wrongful convictions, sent a letter to the Governor just last week outlining why he should sign this very important legislation.

One of the key points made in this letter is the fact that there is currently no “viable process for holding accountable prosecutors who break the rules.” In addition, the letter emphasized that New York had the fourth highest number of exonerations in the country in 2017 — meaning something needs to be done to reverse this dangerous trend.

Ultimately, it is hoped that greater accountability will provide incentive for things to change — and, as a result, fewer wrongful convictions.

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