Council Member King Introduces Resolution today that would grant defense attoneys greater access to evidence before going to trial




King introducing resolution today that would grant defense attorneys greater access to evidence before going to trial


CITY HALL –  Council Member Andy King was joined today on the steps of City Hall by Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson,  Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol,  Public Advocate Letitia James, as well as his colleagues in City Council,  members of Discovery for Justice, local clergy, union locals, and lay people to call for changes in New York state law that would prevent prosecutors from withholding evidence they’ve gathered against those accused of a crime.


Legal experts have repeatedly urged the State Legislature to revise the State’s restrictive criminal discovery rules set forth in Criminal Procedure Law  (CPL) 240. Indigent defendants navigate courts nearly alone and because of substandard legal aid, defendants in minor cases are jailed for long periods of time or imprisoned for crimes they might have been acquitted of had evidence been introduced early.


This afternoon, Council Member King will introduce a resolution in the City Council Stated Meeting, which demands that the New York State Legislature repeal Criminal Procedure Law 240 and enact Criminal Procedure Law 245 to make the judicial process fairer.


“When it comes to justice we should have a system in place that allows us to find the truth as opposed to prosecutors or defense teams trying to win a case. We have to recognize that there are statutory changes which need to be made so that we can give our public defenders the tools they need to better represent their clients.  Imagine if we reformed the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) in NY State so that we can empower our public defenders more.  If we reformed the discovery process, public defenders would be able to properly and effectively counsel their clients and far more innocent people will not have to spend time in jail! Clients would be able to arrive at informed decisions about how to proceed in their case at the early stages.  Reforming the CPL would make sense because it would save money, it would save resources and it would save lives,” said Council Member King (D-Bronx, 12th CD), who is the co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.


“I have been introducing a discovery bill in the Assembly for over two decades. I am hopeful that this year is the year. Unfortunately, many everyday people don’t know that the prosecution and defense are not afforded equal access to evidence. Equal access to information is at the heart of the American democracy. Why shouldn’t it be party of our judicial system? I thank Council Member King for stepping to the plate and brining more attention to this important judicial issue,” said Assemblyman  Joseph  R. Lentol, (D-North Brooklyn).


Changing CPL 240 would help anyone who is arrested for criminal cases to fairly prepare for trial.


“As a former public defender, I know it is imperative that New York implement legal reform that increases support for indigent and low-income defendants, including preventing prosecutors from withholding evidence against those accused in minor crimes. I commend Council Member Andy King for taking this measure to urge revisions to New York State’s restrictive criminal discovery rules, and I will continue to work with my colleagues and legal advocates to increase legal access for those with few or substandard resources,” said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.


“New Yorkers facing the prospect of jail time should not have their fundamental right to a fair trial undermined by the last minute disclosure of information on the eve of trial,” Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson (D-Bronx, 16th CD), chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, said. “Far too many of our young people have seen their hopes and dreams cut short by a wrongful conviction, and requiring the earlier release of discovery material is just one of the many reforms that need to be made to our legal system as we seek to truly balance the scales of justice.”


According to Discovery for Justice, because of CPL 240, some 97 percent of all criminal cases in New York State are settled in our courts by making a deal, regardless if the person is  guilty or not.  New York State is one of the thirteen states in the nation that still have this law, which does not require the district attorney’s office to turn over evidence or information to a defense attorney until the start of trial.


“Discovery for Justice is urging the NYS Legislature to repeal its outdated Criminal Procedure Law 240 and adopt in its place Criminal Procedure Law 245, which provides for open file, early, and automatic disclosure of evidence within the control of the prosecutor to the accused. As of today, there are 37 states that have some form of open file discovery, most notably New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts, North Carolina, California, Florida, and Texas. Suffice it to say, that in states with open file discovery, the accused are not getting away with committing crimes. In fact, criminal prosecutions where discovery has been open and early are not only more fair and just, but also more cost effective,” explained Miguel Santana, spokesperson for Discovery for Justice.


“The impartiality of our justice system is jeopardized when individuals are denied access to critical evidence in criminal cases that will ultimately determine their innocence. Full disclosure is a necessity and a right that all individuals within the State of New York deserve,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo (D-Brooklyn, 35th CD), chair of the Women’s Issues Committee.



“There are necessary steps to take to guarantee fairness during the discovery process and  make our criminal justice system more just.  The enactment of Criminal Procedure Law 245 is imminent so prosecutors and defense lawyers can represent clients equitably.  The criminal discovery reform will align New York with other states that allow early access to prosecution’s evidence to reduce the possibility of wrongful convictions.  The early discovery process is used in civil cases; the same should be true for criminal cases to create homogeneity in the legal system,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera (D-Bronx, 14th CD), chair of Committee on Juvenile Justice.


“Justice is one of the bedrocks of America and this is long overdue. Teamster Joint Council 16 supports it,” said Pedro Cardi, vice president of Local 210 and District Leader 65.


The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice has long advocated for earlier criminal discovery of information and evidence.


“The way that discovery law is presently constructed, I have greater discovery as a plaintiff seeking compensation in a federal lawsuit I filed for 16 years of wrongful imprisonment  than I did as a defendant when I was defending myself in criminal court against the false charges,”  said Jeffrey Deskovic, director of the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice.


Council Member Andy King (center) is joined by Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, (green jacket) Council Member Vanessa Gibson (purple blouse ) and many others advocating for earlier criminal discovery of evidence and information.

Credit: Office of Council Member Andy King

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