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NY Governor Vetoes Bill To Ease Challenges Of Convictions

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for people who have pleaded guilty to crimes to challenge their convictions. The measure was favored by criminal justice reformers but opposed by prosecutors, the Associated Press reports. Hochul said the bill’s “sweeping expansion of eligibility for post-conviction relief” would “up-end the judicial system and create an unjustifiable risk of flooding the courts with frivolous claims.” Under existing state law, criminal defendants who plead guilty are usually barred from trying to get their cases reopened based on a new claim of innocence, except in certain circumstances involving new DNA evidence. The new bill would have expanded the types of evidence that could be considered proof of innocence, including video footage or evidence of someone else confessing to a crime. Arguments that a person was coerced into a false guilty plea would have also been considered.

Prosecutors and advocates for crime victims said the bill would have opened the floodgates to endless, frivolous legal appeals. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, the president of the District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York, told Hochul that the bill would create “an impossible burden on an already overburdened criminal justice system.” The legislation would have benefitted people like Reginald Cameron, who was exonerated in 2023, years after he pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery in exchange for a lesser sentence. His conviction was thrown out after prosecutors reinvestigated the case, finding inconsistencies between the crime details nd the confessions that were the basis for the conviction. The investigation found the detective that had obtained Cameron’s confessions was also connected to other high-profile cases that resulted in exonerations, including the Central Park Five case. Various states including Texas have adopted measures intended to stop wrongful convictions. “We’re pretty out of step when it comes to our post-conviction statute,” Amanda Wallwin of the Innocence Project, speaking of New York's law.


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