A New York State task force examining the causes of wrongful convictions and ways to prevent them has recommended improving eyewitness identifications and expanding the state’s DNA databank, reports the Albany Times-Union. The panel has a list of other issues to tackle, such as videotaping suspects’ statements and interrogations by police and further discussion on DNA evidence. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman created the New York State Justice Task Force in 2009. It is co-chaired by Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore and Court of Appeals Associate Judge Theodore Jones.
In his State of the Judiciary address last week, Lippman said, “Nothing is more damaging to the pursuit of justice than the conviction of an innocent person.” Since DNA was first used over 20 years ago, 266 DNA exonerations have been documented nationwide — 27 of them in New York. “Every wrongful conviction is a double injustice that punishes the innocent and allows the guilty to go free, and an ugly stain on the reputation of the courts, chipping away at our legitimacy in the public eye,” he said. Lippman said DNA samples are collected from those convicted of a felony or one of 35 misdemeanor offenses, which covers fewer than half the convictions in the state.