Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Jeffrion L. Aubry today announced that the Assembly has passed legislation to help those wrongfully convicted seek justice and to vacate convictions of those who were convicted under statutes that were later decriminalized or found to be unconstitutional (A.2878-A, Aubry). This bill is an updated version of the legislation passed earlier this year.
“The Assembly Majority is committed to helping those that were wrongfully convicted seek justice,” Speaker Heastie said. “But under the laws in place in our state, far too many New Yorkers are sitting behind bars for crimes they did not commit. This legislation will put into place the mechanisms to review cases of those who have been wrongly convicted and for them to present evidence of their innocence.”
“No one should have to languish in prison for a crime they did not commit,” Assemblymember Aubry said. “It is past time that New York implements processes applicants for post-conviction relief are able to the submit evidence of their innocence and provide a remedy for those convicted under laws that have since been decriminalized or found to be unconstitutional.”
This legislation would provide individuals convicted of crimes with the opportunity for meaningful review to ensure redress for wrongful convictions, including in cases where the individual has pled guilty. In New York, 96 percent of felony cases are decided by plea agreement, but those who plead guilty have the lowest exoneration rate due to structural barriers put in place. It would also increase protections for people who are innocent, including ensuring that they are permitted under law to submit various types of evidence of their innocence to the court and requiring courts to order hearings in those cases with colorable claims of innocence.
The bill extends new due process protections to applicants for post-conviction relief, including the right to access discovery, including the prosecution and defense counsel files, and access to and retesting of physical evidence. It would also create a uniform standard to ensure that applicants for post-conviction relief are assigned defense counsel and requires the court to appoint counsel in cases where there is a colorable claim of relief.
It would also expand protections for people exposed to significant collateral consequences of their convictions and provide a remedy for people convicted under laws that are subsequently decriminalized to petition to vacate that conviction.
Earlier this year, the Assembly passed a previous version of this legislation. Today’s bill was also passed by the Senate.