Cuomo: Change Bail System, Tape Interrogations & Don't Prosecute As Many Youths

January 12, 2017 - 2:59 am

“We will be the state of law and order but also the state of compassion and common sense. We will work to improve the justice system and end racial and resource inequities. We will propose ground breaking reforms: we will video tape interrogations, improve fairness in lineups, and raise the age of criminal liability from 16 to 18. We will reform our bail system to weigh the public safety risk posed by an individual because we accomplish absolutely nothing locking up people for years who pose no threat to the public who haven’t even had the right to a trial. We will honor the promise of a speedy trial because Riker’s Island is an insult to Lady Justice.”

-Governor Andrew Cuomo, Purchase NY,  January 9, 2017

(WBEN//AP) Governor Cuomo is proposing some big changes on how crimes are investigated-- and even at how young of an age they can be prosecuted. 

In a little heralded part of his state of the state messages that the governor delivered across New York this week, Cuomo spoke briefly of three criminal justice reforms that he will pursue in 2017, with plans to raise the age of criminal liability, make sure that all police and district attorney interviews are videotaped, and to reform bail.

  Speeches Position NY as Progressive Alternative To Donald Trump

(AP) New York state must stand as an alternative to Donald Trump, showing the nation that tolerance, progressive policies like a higher minimum wage and investments in education can create an economy that works for all, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Without mentioning the Republican president-elect by name, Cuomo, a Democrat, said it is up to New York to find a different way to address the middle-class angst that propelled Trump to the White House. His remarks came during a state of the state address at Manhattan's World Trade Center, the first of six addresses planned for locations around the state this week.

"We all heard the roar on election day, and we must respond," Cuomo said. "The nation once again looks to New York to find the way up.... We will hold the torch high to light the way."

Cuomo's answer: big investments in education, including free state tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000; infrastructure projects  subsidies for high-tech industries like the life sciences; and a government that works to reduce taxes and regulations to stay competitive.

Cuomo has been mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2020. He has said he is focused on running for a third term in 2018, but Monday's speech was crafted with a national audience in mind. Cuomo spoke of the anger of a middle class that feels squeezed economically and forgotten by political elites.

"Misdirected, that anger can be destructive. It can scapegoat and it can demonize. It can spread fear of those that are different," he said. "New York knows that our progressive principals of acceptance and diversity are not the enemy of the middle class, and that middle-class success is not the enemy of our progressive beliefs."

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says "Of course he's running"

Cuomo gave a modified version of the speech Monday afternoon in Buffalo, (HEAR IT HERE)  where he was briefly interrupted by a heckler who shouted "traitor!" before Cuomo continued.  Other state of the state addresses were held this week in  Long Island, Westchester County, Albany and Syracuse.

"That's probably the most important one of the the three," said Paul Cambria, a noted Buffalo-area defense attorney. ".. The big problem is people confuse conviction punishment with bail, and someone is charged with a crime, the law says they are presumed innocent and the next thing you know an astronomical bail is set, and they spend a year or more in jail waiting to be tried."

The Cuomo plan would allow judges a way to score risk, and absent any , would "ensure that low risk individuals can be released before their trial", Cuomo's office said in his policy statement released after Monday's speech in New York City

"If people are accountable and come to court they should be released on bail," Cambria said. "Obviously if they are a fugitive, that is a separate crime and they can be punished for it. But we have way too many people sitting in the holding center because they can't make bail," Cambria said,

The Cuomo plan also proposes videotaped interrogations to cut down on wrongful convictions, with financial support for departments and agencies that would need to add the proper equipment for taping.

The procedure is  mandatory in New York City and has been proposed in the state legislature for the past three years. It has the support of many District Attorney offices across the state and has been advocated for by the NYS Chiefs of Police Association & The New York State Bar Association.

During his 2013 State of the State address, the governor advocated for legislation promoting the videotaping of confessions for suspects in violent crimes and sex offenses. This latest plan broadens that and bundles it with other reforms.

As part of the effort Cuomo is also proposing that the age of criminal liability would be raised to 18 years old from the current 16.

"New York stands as one of only two states in the nation that process all 16- and 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system, no matter their offense," Cuomo's office said in their statement. 

The move would send more cases to Family Court where a local district attorney could not press a criminal prosecution.

" It would take a great deal of prosecutorial discretion away from the local district attorney," says Frank Clark, a former Erie County District Attorney. "Not surprisingly. I'm against it""If somebody goes into a grocery store, and shoots a store keep during a robbery, it doesn't make a great deal of difference to the family, whether that person who commits the crime is 14 or 18. They are just as devastated. .. I would be strongly against raising the age of criminal responsibility,"

-Former Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark .

Image result for cambria" I've dealt with literally thousands of people charged with crimes over my career, and people who are 16 and 17 years of age just aren't of the same mental fabric if you will, as people who are of voting age and drinking age... The penalties are really Draconian for certain crimes and someone who is 16 years of age should be treated the same as someone who is older." 
--Defense Attorney Paul Cambria

Both Cambria and Clark stipulate that more kids are committing more crimes; Clark would rather see it addressed through prosecutions, while Cambria wants to see more programs to keep children from being on the street and accessing guns.

All of the Cuomo proposals are likely to be the subject of debate in the legislature. The videotaping measure could be folded into the state budget if it requires funding for additional equipment, and the other measures could be bundled there as well.

Other proposals from Cuomo this year include an expansion of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft into upstate cities such as Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester; an expanded child care tax credit; and significant changes to the state's cumbersome and outdated voting rules.

He also called for  funding for a new hate crimes task force and the passage of the Dream Act, which would extend financial aid to students in the country illegally. Cuomo also wants to close Indian Point nuclear power plant in suburban New York City.

Top lawmakers are skipping Cuomo's speeches in a sign of the tense relationship between lawmakers and Cuomo. Many lawmakers blame the governor for killing their first pay raise in 18 years last month.

Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island, called on Cuomo to move past the speeches and get to work.

"The last thing hardworking, middle-class New Yorkers need right now is flashy press releases, lofty pronouncements or more broken promises," he said.


From The Governor's Office:

Reform Bail and Pretrial Detention

New York is currently only one of four states in the nation where judges cannot, by statute, consider whether an individual poses a threat to the public if released from jail prior to trial.  This antiquated system, in effect, equates freedom with financial status, instead of considering whether a defendant poses an actual risk to society if released before trial.

This two-tiered system can result in the financially disadvantaged being confined for months, and even years, because they cannot post even a modest amount of bail. In New York City, for example, the median bail amount was $5,000 for felony offenses and $1,000 for misdemeanor offenses in 2015. Depending on an individual’s economic condition, these amounts could be easy to afford – leading to liberty – or simply impossible to afford – requiring incarceration. This is unfair and unjust.

To repair this broken system, Governor Cuomo is advancing a comprehensive series of reforms to allow judges to use a validated risk assessment as part of all pre-trial release determinations. Under the legislation, judges will use these to determine an individual’s risk to the public if released. This will ensure that low risk individuals can be released before their trial, high risk individuals remain behind bars, and low-income New Yorkers are not disproportionately punished in the criminal justice system. These assessments will be conducted by instruments that are validated, objective, and transparent to ensure that there is no bias in release determinations.  Additionally, this will enhance public safety by ensuring that high-risk individuals are held and remain behind bars.

The Governor will also work to provide alternatives to pre-trial detention for low-risk individuals and examine the use of cash bail through an advisory committee. Judges should have more than two options when deciding whether someone should stay in jail or be released before their trial. Allowing judges to set conditions, such as reporting or monitoring, would decrease the number of people needlessly incarcerated while preserving public safety. 

Ensure Access to a Speedy Trial

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and state law guarantees all citizens accused of a crime have the right to a speedy and public trial. Too often, however, defendants are held in custody, pre-trial, for excessive periods of time and courts are overburdened with the number of pending criminal cases. This leads to backlogs that disrupt the justice system and have a disparate impact on low-income and minority communities.

To restore the integrity in the justice system, New York will implement new reform measures to ensure that criminal cases proceed to trial without undue delay and that people are not held in jail for unreasonable periods of time.

The Governor is advancing legislation which will reduce unnecessary delays and adjournments in court proceedings.  The proposed legislation will require that people held in custody – not only their attorneys – consent to a speedy trial waiver that must also be approved by a judge. These waivers will also only be granted after the detained defendant has made an appearance before a judge. All speedy trial waivers will be required to include a deadline so that the defendant, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges understand when the trial is scheduled and do not allow delays in the case to clog the court’s calendar.

The Governor will also work with Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to develop an effective administrative approach as well as to recommend additional legislative steps to ensure the constitutional right to a speedy trial is realized across New York State. The goal will be to develop guidance and propose legislative measures aimed at eliminating needless confusion, increasing fairness in judicial proceedings, and ensuring every New Yorker’s right to a speedy trial.

Raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility

New York stands as one of only two states in the nation that process all 16- and 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system, no matter their offense. Currently in New York, of the 27,000 teenagers arrested in 2015, approximately 86 percent of these youth were arrested for non-violent crimes. These teenagers enter the adult criminal justice system where they face potential imprisonment in local county jails or state prisons.

The adult criminal justice system is no place for young people. In New York State, there are approximately 500 people under the age of 18 in local jails and state prisons. Without age-appropriate facilities and programs, these teenagers face a greater risk of being involved in a significant assault, being a victim of sexual violence, and committing suicide.

Over the past three years, Governor Cuomo has taken dramatic action to address this injustice. In 2014, Governor Cuomo announced the creation of the Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice to provide recommendations to modernize New York’s criminal and juvenile justice systems and ensure that young people receive the services and rehabilitation they need to become productive, successful adults.  In 2015, Governor Cuomo accepted the Commission’s recommendations and joined advocates to call on the state legislature to pass Raise the Age legislation to process 16- and 17-year olds as juveniles for all crimes except those involving serious violence, and offer rehabilitative services to all minors. Later that year, after the legislature failed to act, the Governor issued Executive Order No. 150 that directed the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, in collaboration with the Office of Children and Family Services, to implement a plan to remove minors from adult prisons and place them in a new age-appropriate facility.

This year, Governor Cuomo is renewing his call to Raise the Age once and for all. The Governor will introduce legislation to ensure that 16- and 17-year-olds who commit less serious crimes receive necessary intervention and evidence-based treatment.  Those who commit serious crimes will still be held accountable but will have their cases heard by specially trained judges.  Moreover, these young people will have access to specialized services which will reduce recidivism rates, lower youth crime rates, and provide significant public safety benefits for all New Yorkers.

Improve Witness Identification Procedures

Mistaken eyewitness identification has been identified as the leading contributor to wrongful convictions. Research indicates that, when done properly, identification procedures are most reliable when conducted closest to the time of the crime or sighting and the first procedure where a suspect can be identified.  Oftentimes, these identifications are made using a photo array – a series of images displayed to a victim or witness of a crime to confirm or deny the identity of a suspect. These can be highly effective to confirm whether a person was, in fact, involved in a crime – helping protect innocent people from arrest and conviction, and hold the guilty accountable. New York, however, is the only state in the nation which prohibits, by law, a jury from hearing evidence of an identification made by a witness using a photo array.

It is time for New York State to address this deficiency in the criminal justice system. To increase the accuracy and reliability of witness identification. Governor Cuomo will advance legislation to allow the use of photo identifications made by witnesses at trial where the identification procedures were conducted using proper safeguards, such as “blind” and “blinded” administration. This change will ensure juries have the most reliable evidence to base their decisions on. This reform – based upon agreement between the Innocence Project, District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, and New York State Bar Association – will improve the integrity of identification procedures and enhance public safety by safeguarding against wrongful convictions and ensuring that criminals are held responsible.

 Record Police Interrogations for Serious Offenses

New York does not currently require that interrogations of criminal suspects be recorded by law enforcement agencies.  Interrogations are vital to a criminal case because they often provide the needed evidence to convict guilty defendants and exonerate innocent defendants.  However, there are cases where people are wrongfully convicted based on false confessions and instances where police officers are wrongfully accused of coercion.  It is widely agreed among criminal justice stakeholders that the video recording of police interrogations for criminal investigations is a highly effective means to combating the possibility of a false confession or coercion by law enforcement. New York State must act to protect the integrity and reliability of information obtained through the questioning of criminal suspects.

Governor Cuomo is proposing legislation to increase transparency and strengthen the people’s faith in the justice system by requiring law enforcement to video-record custodial interrogations of suspects for serious offenses, including homicide, kidnapping and sex offenses. The proposed legislation is based on an agreement between the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, the Innocence Project, and the New York State Bar Association. Since 2013, the state has supported this common-sense measure with more than $3 million in funding, with additional support from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., to police departments, sheriffs and district attorneys’ offices to purchase and install video recording equipment, increase the number of rooms available to record statements at an agency, and add data storage capacity for existing equipment.

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