NEW YORK—While those convicted might often argue that they are innocent, for those that have actually been wrongfully convicted hope might be around the corner with new legislation, proposed on Wednesday, aimed at exonerating the innocent.
The ‘Actual Innocence Act of 2009’, proposed by State Senator Schneiderman (D-Manhattan/Bronx) and Assemblyman Jeffries, could create the opportunity for defendants, which are able to present reliable and relevant proof of the defendant’s innocence, to have a criminal court change its prior conviction.
“Those that can conclusively prove that they are innocent not to spend another day in prison,” said Senator Schneiderman at a press conference.
According to Schneiderman “New York is behind the curve” in opportunities for the court to reverse wrongful convictions.
“New York State law offers only limited hope for relief by establishing procedural obstacles that can deprive them of having an innocence claim thoroughly heard,” read a statement of Senator Schneiderman.
Glenn Garber, director of the Exoneration Initiative, an organization providing free legal assistance to the wrongfully convicted, says that the new bill is a tremendous step forward.
“While procedural barriers serve a purpose in limiting frivolous claims, they must yield in cases where compelling evidence of innocence comes to light after conviction for justice to prevail,” said Garber in a statement.
The legislation focuses on cases that lack DNA evidence, as these cases represent the majority of wrongfully convicted.
“Experts estimate that DNA testing is possible in just five to ten percent of all criminal cases,” said David Loftis, managing attorney at the innocence project, aimed at exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing.
To prevent defendants misusing the new system, courts would be permitted to deny relief where it determines that the defendant’s failure to act was intentional.