Gotham Gazette Opinion: New York Can’t Put the Blindfold Back On: Legislature Must Reject Rollbacks to State Discovery Laws

Monday, April 24, 2023 2:18 PM | Jennifer Van Ort (Administrator)

Gotham Gazette Opinion: 

New York Can’t Put the Blindfold Back On: Legislature Must Reject Rollbacks to State Discovery Laws

by NYSACDL President Yung-Mi Lee & CDANY Mark Funk

April 24, 2023 

From the Article: 

One thing is clear: prosecutors and defenders acknowledge that for the discovery system to function as intended, more resources are needed for both sides. In 2022, we all met with Governor Hochul’s office to discuss solutions to a growing backlog of cases caused by the pandemic, and we agreed that more funding was needed for staffing and technology to collect, store, share, and review digital evidence.

Police and prosecutors also must agree to a uniform digital transfer system so that DAs aren’t gathering the evidence piece by piece from individual officers, delaying discovery. The refusal or inability to share files between police and prosecutors is no reason to overturn the law.

Despite our agreed-upon solution, prosecutors have suddenly pointed to a supposed increase in dismissals, citing their inability to comply with discovery as the primary cause. This is untrue. The current law has many “safety-valves” when DAs cannot fully comply with the law: DAs simply need to show that they started requesting the information early and that they did so more than once. Worth noting: their data is incomplete because the reasons for dismissals weren’t accurately tracked until the spring of 2022. It is also clear that the lengthy pandemic affected case outcomes, resulting in dismissals as a way to reduce the backlogs.  

Fulfilling the promise of a fairer criminal legal system requires firm commitment to the 2019 landmark law — not a retreat from it that will absolve prosecutors of their obligations and have devastating consequences for people awaiting trial. We urge state legislators to resist the governor’s and prosecutors’ attempt to weaken our discovery laws. Justice depends on it.

Read More Here:

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software