Testifying at an Assembly hearing on criminal justice reform, New York State Bar Association President Glenn Lau-Kee today focused on three measures that would enhance public confidence in New York’s justice system.
“When we consider justice, we must consider effective law enforcement that protects the public and, at the same time, ensures fairness to every individual who is at risk of losing his or her liberty,” he told lawmakers at a joint hearing of the Assembly Judiciary and Codes committees, and the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus in Albany.
Each of Lau-Kee’s recommendations result from extensive research and analysis by the New York State Bar Association, which has designated them among its 2015 legislative priorities. They are:
• Requiring police to videotape the entire interrogation of criminal suspects.
Keeping a camera rolling throughout the interrogation process would help put to rest concerns that police might have coerced a suspect’s confession by using illegal tactics.
“If the interrogation were recorded and this type of dispute arose, everyone could view all activity during the interrogation. Instead of guessing based on testimony from interested parties, we would see and hear what took place,” said Lau-Kee. “This would go a long way to assure a fair outcome.”
• Altering the way police lineups of suspects are conducted.
“There is an enormous amount of evidence that when a police officer who knows the identity of the suspect conducts the lineup he or she will, even unconsciously, lead the victim who is being asked to identify the individual who allegedly committed a crime. Thus, these types of lineups can be tainted,” he said.
The solution, Lau-Kee said, is require that the lineup be conducted by an official who does not know the identity of the suspect.
• Requiring prosecutors and defense attorneys to exchange more information prior to a plea agreement or trial.
Often the defense is at a disadvantage because it does not know what information a prosecutor has, or what is in the police report. “If fairness is an objective, both the prosecutor and defense should have the same access to information,” Lau-Kee said.
“Admittedly, there are complexities to this exchange of discovery materials, such as protecting the identity of witnesses when needed, but the exchange of information would certainly enhance the public’s confidence in believing that the resolution of a criminal case was fair and just.”
The New York State Bar Association, with 74,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
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