ALBANY - Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday endorsed a longstanding proposal to require videotaping of interrogations of criminal suspects, marking the first time that the oft-shelved initiative backed strongly by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (See Profile) has garnered executive support.
In his annual State of the State address, Cuomo also called for a host of tougher gun-control laws in the wake of several gun-fueled tragedies, including the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre and the slayings of two volunteer firefighters near Rochester on Christmas Eve.
And the governor said he would push in 2013 to decriminalize the "open view" possession of 25 grams of marijuana or less, arguing that young blacks and Hispanics are charged disproportionately under the provision, often with life-long consequences.
Cuomo called for the mandatory recording of interrogations of those suspected of the most serious offenses, such as homicide, kidnapping and some sex offenses. The recording has been supported in the past by the New York State Bar Association, the New York City Bar and by Lippman and others who say it would be an important part of what Cuomo called "innocence protections" to ensure no one is wrongfully convicted of crimes.
Another step urged by the governor was to require the admission of eyewitness photo identification only where blind or double-blind identification procedures were used. Advocates say the process would reduce the chances that police tip off the identity of suspects to eyewitnesses because the officers themselves do not know who the suspects are in the lineups.
It was also the first time Cuomo had taken a stand in favor of the lineup identification safeguards.
"This will give us more certainty that the convictions we actually obtain are more accurate and justified," Cuomo said during his address in the convention center of the Empire State Plaza government complex near the state Capitol.
The governor said it is in the best interests of all those in the criminal justice system, including prosecutors, to make sure that the guilty are convicted and the innocent are not. "This is not a numbers game for a prosecutor," he said.