The state's chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, said that instituting new safeguards against wrongful convictions and raising the age at which criminal defendants are considered adults should be top priorities of legislators and the legal community in New York State, reported the New York Times. Judge Lippman made several proposals that he plans to bring to the legislature. These proposals focus on bringing legislation that would prevent non-violent juveniles from being tried as adults and would lower false conviction rates.
The Judge proposes that a new youth court be created that would treat 16 and 17-year-olds who have been convicted of non-violent crimes as juveniles and essentially raise the age that a defendant can be tried as an adult from 16 to 18 for these non-violent offenders. To keep from overburdening family courts the proposal also calls for judges in adult-offender courts to act as family court judges in these cases. Currently, New York State and North Carolina are the only states that try 16 and 17-year-olds as adults.
The other issue on the judge's agenda was safeguarding against wrongful convictions. One proposal he made to help do this is to require videotaping of interrogations to reduce the amount of coerced confessions. Some voiced their concerns that implementing this may be difficult for many small communities. The judge's beliefs are that this would be just one part of the larger effort to prevent false convictions through new and improved legislation.
Judge Lippman also feels that preventing wrongful convictions needs to be part of the discussion about expanding the DNA database. The DNA expansion bill was recently passed in the state Senate and would require all convicted criminals [not just those convicted of a felony and of certain misdemeanors, as required now] to submit a DNA sample to the database, but the state Assembly is reluctant to pass the bill without attaching provisions that would allow defendants greater access to the database. This access would be very important when it comes to exonerating innocent people, which the judge believes should be a major goal of this bill and all those involved with it.
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