Assemblyman Mosley: There Needs to be Prosecutorial Oversight to Ensure Justice is Served, Prevent Abuse of Power

June 20, 2018

Assemblyman Mosley (D-Brooklyn) announced that he helped pass legislation to create the State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct and promote accountability and transparency in New York’s criminal justice system (A.5285-C).

“Local prosecutors are powerful figures in our judicial system and every day their decisions impact the life and liberty of New Yorkers across this state,” said Assemblyman Mosley. “While prosecutors by and large do a great job, this far-reaching authority demands the highest level of accountability to ensure that justice is always meted out fairly and equally. By creating a state commission to investigate complaints of misconduct, we can help ensure public trust in the criminal justice system.”

The legislation would create an 11-member independent commission of legal professionals to be appointed by the governor, Legislature and chief judge to investigate and, when appropriate, recommend sanctions for prosecutors found to have engaged in misconduct in the performance of their duties. The bill directs that the membership be comprised of an equal number of prosecutors and defense attorneys. The bill also provides for review of the commission’s recommendations by the Court of Appeals and affirms the governor’s constitutional authority to remove prosecutors and district attorneys found responsible for misconduct. The commission would help ensure that New Yorkers who encounter the criminal justice system aren’t left solely at the mercy of the district attorney’s office, noted Assemblyman Mosley. A similar commission already exists to investigate complaints against judges.

Assemblyman Mosley further noted that although the vast majority of prosecutors do their jobs with the utmost respect for the law, there are those who abuse their power, and there needs to be a system of checks and balances in place. A commission on prosecutorial conduct could also be an important impetus for district attorneys’ offices to review the policies and procedures they have in place to promote a fairer criminal justice system and help prevent wrongful convictions.1 Disturbingly, New York State ranks second in wrongful convictions, behind only Texas, with each innocent person losing an average of 10 years of their life behind bars.2

This legislation builds on the Assembly’s previous efforts to enact substantive criminal justice reform. Earlier this month, the Assembly passed measures that would overhaul the cash bail system – so that economic barriers do not determine whether a person is stuck sitting in jail awaiting trial (A.10137-A). The Assembly also passed legislation to reform New York’s criminal discovery laws and provide for early and more robust exchange of information in criminal prosecutions (A.4360-A).

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1. nytimes.com/2017/10/08/nyregion/holding-prosecutors-accountable-is-hard-it-could-get-harder.html

2. law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/Exonerations-in-the-United-States-Map.aspx