Wrongfully Convicted Get Support From AG's Proposed Bill

, New York Law Journal

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Eric T. Schneiderman
Eric T. Schneiderman

Schneiderman said his legislation would also:

• Increase to three years from two years the time to file a damages claim based on a constitutional violation or exculpatory DNA evidence.

• Allow litigants who fail to personally verify their claim a new six-month period to correct it or fix other technical errors.

Schneiderman said the verification-of-claim provision stems from difficulties that Fernando Bermudez has had with his claim against the state for being incarcerated for 18 years on a wrongful murder conviction in Manhattan (NYLJ, Feb. 23, 2011).

While Bermudez signed a statement declaring that he had been wrongfully convicted, he did not personally verify his claim. Schneiderman said Bermudez did not correct the error, despite warning from the attorney general's office, and the A.G. now must seek dismissal of his claim outright.

Schneiderman said his legislation, if approved, would give Bermudez and others like him six months going forward to fix any verification errors.

Advocates for criminal defendants say otherwise innocent people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit because they felt coerced by their interrogators, were young and immature or were simply frightened.

Of the 27 people in New York who have had their convictions reversed because of DNA evidence since 1991, at least 10 made confessions or false self-incriminating statements, according to the Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law.

Schneiderman announced his proposed bill at a breakfast program sponsored by John Jay's College of Criminal Justice to address issues facing prisoners reentering society.

State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the Assembly's Codes Committee, said he will sponsor the bill in the Assembly. He said the bill should not raise the concerns of district attorneys as recent cases have done by seeking to change police and prosecutors' procedures. Police misconduct was cited as a major contributing factor to wrongful convictions in a New York State Bar Association study of the issue (NYLJ, April 7, 2009).

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    toot, toot, wrongful conviction express coming down the tracks. Mr. AG, how about checking out the FZ Express Train.

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