2012-05-31 | Times Union
A matter of innocence debated
Advocates urge reform to guard against wrongful convictions
By Casey Seiler
Updated 3:48 pm, Thursday, May 31, 2012
ALBANY — The Innocence Project and the state Bar Association came to the Capitol on Wednesday to push for the expansion of videotaped interrogations and reforms to lineup procedures, arguing that the changes will protect everyone involved — the accused, the victims and the public at large.
The advocates want "double-blind" lineups where the officer running the session doesn't know the identity of the suspect.
As a living example of the costs of law enforcement errors, the news conference also included five exonerees who collectively spent more than nine decades behind bars for crimes they didn't commit. The men submitted a joint letter calling for the changes and concluding, "We lost everything. How many more New Yorkers must suffer our fate?"
Noted defense attorney Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, which has helped to overturn almost 300 wrongful incarcerations over the past two decades, expressed the hope that the proposed reforms can be accomplished before the end of the legislative session. Many Democratic lawmakers wanted to see the changes included along with the expansion of the state's DNA database earlier this year, although that plan ran afoul of majority Republicans in the state Senate.
"This is a win-win public safety issue," Scheck said. "It is not just about protecting the innocent; it is about enhancing the capability of law enforcement to solve crime and find the bad guys
"We are all victims of wrongful convictions," said Vince Doyle, president of the state Bar Association.
Michele Mallin of Texas described her horror upon learning that the man she identified as her attacker following her 1985 abduction and rape had been exonerated by DNA evidence — but only after dying in prison 14 years into a 25-year sentence.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol, D-Brooklyn, has introduced a bill that requires videotaping of confessions along with a number of other provisions; it currently lacks a Senate sponsor. Lentol said even some of his fellow lawmakers have asked him, "Why are you bothering with this stuff? ... You know they must be guilty of some crime."
The state District Attorneys Association has endorsed an expansion of videotape protocols, but its support falls short of backing legislation to mandate the change.
John Grebert, executive director of the state Association of Chiefs of Police, questioned whether the reforms were as effective as the advocates claim, and noted concerns over the requirements and cost of mandated videotaping. Small police departments, he noted, could have difficulty even finding an officer capable of being genuinely blind to a suspect's identity while conducting a lineup.
The news conference ended just after one of the New York exonerees, Jeff Deskovic, called upLorenzo Johnson of Yonkers, whose life sentence was only this week reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that Johnson's conviction in a 1995 shotgun killing in Pennsylvania was based on insufficient evidence.
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3 Things You Can Do to End Police Killings and Fix the Criminal Justice System
December 10, 2014
Matthew Cooke and Adrian Grenier
We're doing a lot of talking. That's good. Now let's make them accountable.
Since the shooting of Mike Brown, more than 14 black teens have been killed by the police, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a boy in Cleveland, Ohio who was murdered less than two seconds after police arrived at a playground to answer a 911 call related to a black child carrying a pellet gun.
If you're a black teenager you're 21 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than if you're white. So we've been talking about racism.
Exonerated but not free: What do we owe the wrongfully convicted?
November 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM EST
The toll of the justice system on the wrongfully convicted
The toll of varied laws for compensation for the wrongfully convicted is examined.
In the US, state laws governing compensation for wrongfully convicted people vary significantly. While some states offer sizable packages for the exonerated, at least 20 offer nothing. And even for those that do, it may not be enough to make up for the emotional damage on those who've been wrongfully convicted. Hari Sreenivasan reports.
Chabad of the Shore
September 4, 2015
Chabad of the Shore, a Jewish community organization in Long Branch, NJ, hosted a dinner and invited Jeffrey Deskovic to be the guest speaker, followed by Q&A.
August 31, 2015
Jeffrey Deskovic was honored with being invited to speak at TEDxMartha's Vineyard along with other preeminent leaders, thinkers, and doers.
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, which now has given birth local, self-organized TEDx events on a global scale. TEDxMartha's Vineyard is a day of talks, performances, and community building on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts each August.