The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

DNA Bill Signing

Capitol, Red Room
Monday, March 19, 2012 [Noon]

Javascript is required to view the video...
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver participated in a bill signing ceremony with Gov. Andrew Cuomo who signed legislation that expands the state's DNA Data Bank. Silver called the reform legislation a "compromise" that will bring sunlight and fairness to court proceedings examining claims of innocence.

Thank you, Governor.

If I might, let me take a moment to acknowledge the Assembly Members who are present and who have worked significantly on this bill: Assembly Member Barbara Clark, Assembly Member Jeff Aubry, and Assembly Member Joe Lentol, who did yeoman's work on this particular issue.

On their behalf and on behalf of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let me say how pleased we are with this agreement.

Expansion of the DNA database, if carefully controlled to guard against wrongful dissemination or misuse, will be a valued investigative tool.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of today's compromise will prove to be the dramatic and long overdue expansion of a judge's right to order production and examination of evidence necessary for a fair hearing on the question of guilt or innocence.

Property and records which may lead to proof of a wrongful conviction should not lay buried in a file or drawer, impervious to review in open court.

Unfortunately, this has been the case all too often.

Today's reform, thanks to the hard work of the Governor and our partners in government and in the Senate, will bring sunlight and fairness to court proceedings examining claims of innocence.

Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the current Chair of the Assembly Codes Committee, Assemblyman Joe Lentol, for his many years of leadership in advancing the use of DNA as an investigative tool and for reform of police practices.

Let me also acknowledge the efforts of The Innocence Project, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, the New York State Bar Association, and the New York State Justice Task Force for supporting our efforts to have "innocence" provisions included in this legislation.

When a person is wrongly convicted, the real perpetrator remains free to potentially commit other crimes while an innocent person is unjustly punished. Furthermore, victims are given a false sense of security that the actual perpetrator has been incarcerated.

All too often, wrongful convictions occur because of mistaken eyewitness identifications or coerced, unreliable confessions.

We must now move forward to enact additional reforms that will enhance public safety and ensure that real perpetrators are caught and that innocent people are not going to prison.

As New York leads the nation and becomes the first state to enact an "all crimes" DNA database, we will continue to push for reforms presented by the Chief Judge's task force, reforms in how identification proceedings and police interrogations are conducted.

That said, I commend the Governor for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with him and with our partners in the State Senate to improve our criminal justice system and enhance the security of all New Yorkers.

Thank you.