Albany - On Tuesday, the New York State Assembly passed legislation (A.5285) sponsored by Assemblyman Nick Perry to establish a commission which would investigate complaints of prosecutorial misconduct. The bill passed the Senate last week, and will be soon delivered to Governor Andrew Cuomo to be signed into law.
The commission comprised of 11 members appointed by the Governor, legislative leaders and the judiciary, would have the authority to receive and investigate complaints of alleged misconduct by prosecutors. If signed by the Governor, New York will be the first state in the nation to have a government body that holds prosecutors accountable for their conduct.
Assemblyman Nick Perry first introduced the bill in 2014 at the request of advocates for the wrongfully accused, and along with his co-sponsor, Senator John DeFrancisco, aggressively pursued its passage for the past four years.
"The successful passage of the bill into law was a real high-level challenge, probably the most difficult in my 25 years in the Assembly, but it was easy to maintain my motivation and focus as I learned each day of the crippling impact of unchecked power of prosecutors, and the egregious misconduct that put numerous innocent New Yorkers behind bars. It was both amazing and alarming to learn that almost every single time, bad prosecutors got away with misconduct with no penalty, whatsoever. By signing this bill into law, the Governor will put New York State at the very head of the line as the undisputed leader on the quest for justice and fairness in our criminal justice system.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 43 percent of wrongful convictions are the result of official misconduct, and New Yorkers who have been exonerated, have spent nearly 2000 years in prison.
Throughout the bill process Assemblyman Perry has made clear that this legislation should never be viewed as an attack on prosecutors. The record is clear that the vast majority of prosecutors are hardworking and honest public servants; however, in every occupation you have your bad apples. A bad prosecutor could cost wrongfully convicted person years, decades or even the rest of their lives locked up in prison, away from their families, serving time for a crime that he or she didn't commit. We should never allow the bad apple to spoil the whole bunch by doing nothing to remove it," said Assemblyman Perry. "The mere fact that 97 percent of felony criminal cases in the U.S. are resolved without a trial, exhibits the enormity and awesome power of the prosecutor in deciding who gets incarcerated and who walks free. The damage from just one dishonest prosecutor can be devastating. Therefore, the need for all prosecutors to play fair and honest is paramount. The current structure which allows for unchecked conduct of our states prosecutors undermines our entire justice system and this new law will fix that."
"I want to thank my colleague Senator DeFrancisco for spearheading the bill's bipartisan passage in the Senate last week, and all of the criminal justice advocates who so passionately crusaded on behalf of the wrongfully accused, wrongfully convicted and victims of prosecutorial malfeasance," said Assemblyman Perry. This commission will provide and help maintain the fairness in our justice system, which is more than just a promise, but a foundation of our democracy."