Weekly Update: Exonerees Speak Up for Justice and the Northeast Steps Forward with Reforms

Alejandra de la Fuente — April 13, 2012 @ 11:13 AM — Comments (0)

Exoneree Juan Rivera Steps Out to Speak Against Wrongful Convictions

Juan Rivera has remained fairly quiet since he was exonerated earlier this year in a 1992 Illinois murder, but now he will be speaking at an upcoming panel discussion on wrongful convictions. Rivera will appear at Northern Illinois University’s College of Law in DeKalb Tuesday on a so-called Innocence Panel that also includes Justice Susan Hutchinson of the Illinois Appellate Court’s 2nd District, which authored the ruling that led to Rivera’s release, according to the Lake Forest TribLocal.

The panel is scheduled with the intent of bringing awareness to the critical importance of justice reform in preventing wrongful convictions, especially considering an upcoming general election when Lake County will be electing a new state’s attorney.

Read more about Rivera’s case and the upcoming NIU Innocence Panel here.

Connecticut Senate Moves to Repeal Death Penalty

Last Thursday the Connecticut Senate debated for hours before deciding in a 20-16 vote to repeal their death penalty law. Connecticut’s largely left-wing House of Representatives is expected to return a vote in favor of repealing the law within the next several weeks, according to the Associated Press. Further, “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the first Democratic governor elected in two decades, has vowed to sign the same bill vetoed by his Republican predecessor.”

Connecticut is one of five states to have done away with the death penalty recently, including New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Illinois. However, those states are ones that have hardly used the death penalty within the past fifty years.

Several other states, such as Kentucky and California, have proposals to repeal capitol punishment pending. Increased awareness of how often our system gets it wrong is a big part of why these precautions and considerations are being made.

Read more here.

New York Attorney General Establishes Wrongful Conviction Investigative Board

Wednesday Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the creation of a new department within the New York Office of the Attorney General; an unprecedented department that will act on an initiative to address issues causing wrongful convictions statewide.

“There is only one person who wins when the wrong person is convicted of a crime: the real perpetrator, who remains free to commit more crimes. For victims, their families, and any of us who could suffer the nightmare of being wrongly accused, it is imperative that we do everything possible to maximize accuracy, justice, and reliability in our justice system,” Attorney General Schneiderman said, according to a Long Island Press Release. “As a result, my office will be working with District Attorneys across the state to address compelling claims of innocence, and I will conduct a top-to-bottom review of my office’s investigatory and prosecutorial procedures, and adapt them as needed to ensure reliability.”

The new bureau has three major tasks; it will review potential wrongful conviction cases from within the District Attorney’s office, it will conduct a thorough review of the Office of the Attorney General’s investigatory and prosecutorial procedures, and a subcommittee of the Bureau will meet to resolve unjust conviction torts filed against the State. This will enable exonerees meeting the requirements for compensation under state law, to receive it in an efficient, streamlined manner.

Read more here.

While we have no proof or actions yet to verify the words of the Attorney General, this is an organization that we need, nationwide, to reform the justice system. While it may still not go far enough (we still need to change police procedures and the prejudices and biases that exist in juries), this in combination with New York’s increased DNA database makes New York one of the most proactive and progressive states with regard to justice reform. And for that, I commend them.

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