NY State Senate passes prosecutorial misconduct bill
This is huge news coming out of Albany. A big congratulations to Bill Bastuk and all those on the ITCHY team (It Could Happen to You):
State Senate passes prosecutorial misconduct bill
By Bill Mahoney
06/14/2018 03:14 PM EDT
ALBANY — After a lengthy and substantive debate that divided both parties Thursday, the Senate passed a bill to create a commission on prosecutorial misconduct, setting it up to potentially be one of the most significant bills to be passed by the Legislature at the end of this year’s session.
The measure had become the top priority of Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) in his final weeks before retirement. It would create a panel modeled after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct that would be tasked with investigating complaints made against prosecutors.
“When a bad prosecutor does something that results in somebody losing their liberty, there has got to be a remedy,” DeFrancisco said.
“There’s many cases where individuals are convicted of crimes as heinous as murder and spend 10, 20 years in jail, then found later because of DNA evidence that they weren’t the guilty party,” he added. “So then they go to the state of New York, the Court of Claims, and bring a lawsuit. And the state and our taxpayers have to pay millions of dollars for that misconduct — usually, it’s withholding exculpatory information, information that would help the defense.”
The opposition to the bill was led by state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), a former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York.
“Prosecutors all the time have to make heart-wrenching decisions about what to do in car crashes where people die,” he said. “What will every family do when a decision is made that manslaughter shouldn’t be charged? They’re going to bring a prosecutor in front of this panel and say, ‘This is misconduct, I want this defendant charged for what they did to my family.’ So when you’re a prosecutor now, evaluating what to do, whether to do justice, which is the only directive, you are going to say, ‘Well, I’ve got this panel … so now we’re going to start charging a couple of vehicular manslaughters to keep us safe.'”
He also argued that the panel, which would be appointed by state government officials, might keep prosecutors from investigating these same officials.
“No prosecutor is going to want to bring a political corruption case when they know that a senator or assemblyperson or someone from the executive chamber is going to get hauled in front of a court, and then [take them] in front of a panel of somebody they appointed,” Kaminsky said.
Nine Republicans voted against the measure, which passed 44-12, though they held their tongues.
While some members were silent, the debate was more substantive than most are in Albany, and the partisan bickering that has defined the chamber in recent weeks never really surfaced.
“This has been fantastic,” said Majority Leader John Flanagan in a rare moment in which he spoke on legislation from the floor. “It makes me proud to be in this room and actually deliberate.”
“It’s probably one of the better debates I’ve seen on the floor in this house in the 16 years I’ve been here,” said state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).
The bill has yet to pass the Assembly, but Assemblyman Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn), the sponsor in that house, expects that to happen soon.
“I expect it to be taken up shortly,” Perry said. “I don’t think today, but definitely one day next week.”