Establishes the office of special investigation within the department of law to investigate and prosecute any alleged criminal offense or offenses committed by a police officer or peace officer, concerning the death of any person as a result of any encounter with such police officer or peace officer.
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A6509A
SPONSOR: Wright (MS)
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the executive law and the criminal
procedure law, in relation to establishing the office of special inves-
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
The bill is designed to increase transparency and facilitate additional
involvement of the court in grand jury proceedings. Additionally, in
order to enhance public confidence in the integrity of proceedings in
certain instances involving the use of deadly force by police and peace
officers, the bill would authorize the designation or appointment of a
special prosecutor to investigate and/or prosecute such cases.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:
Section one would establish an Office of Special Investigation within
the New York State Department of Law (the formal name of the New York
State office of the Attorney General). The Office of Special Investi-
gation would, in certain circumstances, be empowered to investigate and
prosecute alleged criminal offenses committed by a police or peace offi-
cer that involved the use of deadly force against an individual who
neither displayed nor threatened the immediate use of a deadly weapon or
When the police or peace officer allegedly involved was employed by the
State of New York, the Attorney General would be authorized to apply to
the court for appointment of an independent special prosecutor to inves-
tigate and potentially prosecute the matter.
Section two would amend subdivision two of section 190.25 of the Crimi-
nal Procedure Law to assure that, as a part of carrying out his or her
duties under law, a judge of the superior court is authorized to be
present in the grand jury room, except during deliberations and voting
by the grand jury.
Section three would make information and records concerning certain
grand jury proceedings more readily available to the public. In
proceedings involving any defendant, when the grand jury does not bring
an indictment for a felony charge, the following information would be
presumptively available for release: the criminal charges submitted,
legal instructions given to the grand jury, testimony of expert
witnesses, testimony of public servants who testified in an official
capacity, and the testimony of other witnesses (redacted as necessary to
prevent discovery of their names and personal data or information that
may reveal identity).
Both the district attorney and the person against whom charges were
presented would be able to appear and be heard in support of or oppo-
sition to any application for release of such information and records.
In cases involving the submission of a potential criminal charge against
a police officer or peace officer, legal instructions would be given by
the superior court judge in charge of the grand jury. After submission
of such charge or charges and final action on them by the grand jury,
these legal instructions would be available for public release, provided
that the names of witnesses and any information that would identify a
witness would be redacted if the court determined that public release of
such information would endanger any person.
It is vital that the public have confidence that our criminal justice
system is impartial and fair. This confidence must be borne not just of
perception, but of reality.
This legislation is designed to enhance public confidence in several
ways. First, in all cases, it expressly authorizes the presence of a
superior court judge in the grand jury room, except during deliberations
and voting. Under existing law, the grand jury is empaneled by the supe-
rior court and "constitut
es a part of such court." Criminal Procedure
Law § 190.05. The judge, along with the district attorney, serves as
legal advisor to the grand jury. CPL § 190.25 (6). Thus, it is certainly
appropriate that the judge be among the persons authorized by CPL §
190.25 (3) to be in the grand jury room.
Second, judges are also authorized to instruct grand jurors regarding
their duties and regarding any matter before the grand jury. CPL §
190.25 (6). This bill provides that when the subject of possible grand
jury action is a police officer or peace officer, legal instructions to
the grand jury will be given by the court. This will enhance public
confidence because the judge, an impartial arbiter, is never called upon
to represent any interest before the court.
When an indictment occurs under current law, public charges are filed
and the public generally learns the specific charges and, as the matter
unfolds, further details. However, when no indictment occurs, all infor-
mation about the proceedings remains secret, unless released under
limited circumstances. See CPL 190.25 (4) (a).
In some recent cases involving police and deadly force that did not
result in indictment, present law has led to confusion and concern,
among some in the public, that appropriate evidence was not presented or
necessary legal instructions were not given. This legislation carefully
balances grand jury secrecy with the public's understandable desire to
know more about what led to a "no true bill" result.
Third, district attorneys and police work closely together in the inves-
tigation of criminal acts. When an investigation involves police use of
deadly force, it is reasonable to consider whether a district attorney
can be impartial in investigating the facts and determining whether
grand jury consideration is appropriate.
This bill would establish an Office of Special Investigation within the
N.Y. State Department of Law. After reviewing specified statutory
factors, the office would be authorized to investigate and prosecute
this limited class of cases in the same manner as a district attorney.
In instances where the police officer or peace officer was employed by
New York State, the office would be empowered to seek court appointment
of a special assistant attorney general to investigate and potentially
prosecute the matter.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
The bill may result in some increased costs to the state, and concom-
itant savings for counties, as some prosecutions would be brought at
state, rather than county, cost.
The bill takes effect immediately, provided that section two of the bill
takes effect in thirty days.