“Another day, another wrongful conviction uncovered,” begins The Buffalo News editorial chastising the New York Senate for failing to follow the Assembly in passing a bill earlier this year that would have required best practices in criminal justice procedures. It comes in the wake of evidence of another wrongful conviction—as reported by The New York Times here and here and this blog here—this time of five individuals in the murder of a cab driver in the Bronx, 15 years after their criminal trials.
In spite of a sad record of wrongful convictions, the state, says the editorial, has “a seemingly willful determination to do nothing about it.”
Changing lineup procedures and recording interrogations would reduce the damaging impact of two recurring contributors to wrongful conviction: misidentification and false confessions. But passing legislation to require best practices in criminal justice procedures and protocols has been a tough battle in New York and other states.
The editorial emphasizes an important point sometimes overlooked by the public, which may view wrongful conviction as an anecdotal rather than a systemic issue: Embracing best practices in criminal justice is a matter of public safety. “Women in Erie County were murdered because the wrong man was convicted of the Delaware Park rapes. While (Anthony) Capozzi’s life was being stolen from him in prison, the actual rapist, Altemio Sanchez, was graduating from rape to murder, as the Bike Path Killer.”
For advocates of best practices in criminal justice, the tide is turning when newspapers speak out and urge political action.
The American public is awakening to the need to improve our criminal justice system. Many ask how to help. Share your concern with neighbors and friends. Awareness of the problem and recommended improvements is key, because VOTERS DRIVE POLICY CHANGE. The Buffalo News has done an important public service in championing this vital safety and human rights issue.