Wrongful Convictions

“Members of the Central Park Five, who as teenagers were wrongfully convicted of a 1989 rape due to false confession, have launched the#EndNYWrongfulConviction with the Innocence Project in an effort to move long-stalled state legislation that would prevent the top contributors to wrongful conviction in New York State: false confession and misidentification. In a series of short videos produced by award-winning filmmaker Sarah Burns, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana, of the Central Park 5, call for the passage of a bill that would require police to record interrogations and implement eyewitness identification reform.

#EndNYWrongfulConviction calls on the New York State legislature to pass a bill that will require police to electronically record the entirety of suspect interrogations and conduct photo lineups blindly, meaning that the police officer conducting the lineup is unaware of the suspect’s identity or cannot see which photo the eyewitness is viewing. Electronically recording interrogations provides an objective record and deters leading or abusive behavior by police, while also protecting against unjustified claims of coercion. The blind administration of photo lineups prevents an officer from providing any intentional or unintentional cues which could influence a selection. Both best practices are evidence-based deterrents to misidentification and false confession.

Despite the fact that New York has third highest number of wrongful convictions proven by DNA evidence in the nation (at 29), and that either false confession and misidentification played a role in all but one of these cases, this legislation has not passed, even though it has been introduced numerous times for nearly a decade. Last year, the Senate for the first time approved a version of this proposal, but it failed to pass the full legislature in the waning days of session. Earlier this year, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo included these reforms in his 2016 legislative agenda.”

Per Diem Services supports the Innocence Project and legislation to end wrongful conviction in New York State. We urge counsel and their staff  to contact their local elected officials and voice their support for essential reform to our criminal justice system. What happened to these five teenagers can happen to any one of us.