DAASNY Position Statements
DAASNY Urges Veto of S6483A, A9042A, a bill that would legalize dangerous knives in the face of a surge of slashing and other knife crimes
DAASNY OPPOSES CREATION OF A COMMISSION ON PROSECUTORIAL CONDUCT; SAYS EXISTING SYSTEMS SHOULD BE STRENGTHENED
Prosecutors who commit willful misconduct must be held accountable. Even one wrongful conviction is intolerable.
But a legislatively-created Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct is not the answer. Legislation currently pending in Albany (S. 24-B and A. 1131-B) seeks to create a new Commission with broad and unchecked powers and one that duplicates the efforts of existing investigative and disciplinary entities.
The District Attorneys Association opposes the new Commission for the following reasons:
CLAIMS OF PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT & PROSECUTORIAL ERROR CAN BE PURSUED BY SEVERAL EXISTING METHODS
The conduct of DAs is already governed by the Appellate Divisions of State Supreme Court and the Disciplinary and Grievance Committees which conduct investigations on behalf of the Courts and have the power to publicly censure, suspend and disbar a DA.
Defendants can also currently pursue claims of prosecutorial misconduct and prosecutorial error in the State Courts through motions to set aside the verdict; motions to vacate the judgment; appeals as a matter of right or at the court’s discretion; and writs of habeas corpus in the federal courts
Unlike any other attorney, a District Attorney can be removed from handling any case at the discretion of the Governor.
WILLFUL PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT IS RARE
Despite headline-making cases, willful prosecutorial misconduct is rare. Wrongful convictions often result from factors other than prosecutorial misconduct, including mistaken identifications, false confessions, and ineffective assistance of counsel.
DAASNY & DAs OFFICES HAVE TAKEN NUMEROUS STEPS TO ENSURE THE FAIR & ETHICAL ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
DAASNY has taken important steps to address wrongful convictions. For instance, in 2009, our Committee for the Fair and Ethical Administration of Justice formulated protocols to prevent misidentifications and unreliable confessions, two leading sources of wrongful convictions. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder publicly lauded this as a model for the nation.
In 2011, DAASNY published a detailed ethical manual titled The Right Thing. It has been adopted by every District Attorney’s Office in New York and has been adopted in many other states.
Individual DA’s Offices have also undertaken strenuous efforts to address past wrongful convictions and prevent their reoccurrence in the future. Several DA’s offices, most notably the Brooklyn District Attorney, have conviction integrity units to review claims of past wrongful convictions. Additionally, almost every DA’s office in the state has designed rigorous procedures to assure wrongful convictions do not occur.
New York’s elected District Attorneys are among the most ethically conscientious, the most regulated and the most scrutinized in the country. The goals of the proposed legislation are laudable. But they can be achieved by strengthening the disciplinary mechanisms already in place.
For more information, please see DAASNY Letter of Opposition to Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct
Statement of DAASNY President Thomas P. Zugibe (District Attorney, Rockland County) on Confirmation of Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to the Court of Appeals
“On behalf of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, I congratulate Judge Janet DiFiore on her confirmation as the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. Janet DiFiore has shown the type of balanced approach to serving justice that will undoubtedly become the hallmark of her leadership of the judicial branch of our great state. We look forward to working with Judge DiFiore on the important work of improving the criminal justice system and enhancing public safety.”
DAASNY Statement Praising Governor Cuomo for Recommending Meaningful Reforms to Address Wrongful Convictions.
(NEW CITY, NY – January 14, 2016) DAASNY President Thomas P. Zugibe (District Attorney, Rockland County) said, “DAASNY applauds Governor Cuomo for including the wrongful conviction legislation initiative as part of his 2016 priorities. Since 2010, the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York has voluntarily adopted identification procedures and the video recording of certain custodial interrogations.
“Last year, we were proud to work with the New York State Bar Association and the Innocence Project to draft language codifying these issues (S5875A, A8157A — sponsored by Senator Nozzolio and Assemblyman Lentol). It is rare that opposing parties in our adversarial judicial system come together to call for legislative change, but the implementation of procedures proven to reduce wrongful convictions is so important that it transcends those differences.
“The voluntary video recording and identification procedures adopted by DAASNY demonstrated the commitment of prosecutors and police to getting it right; statewide adoption of the proposed legislation will be one more step to enhance justice in New York.”
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) said today that District Attorneys recognize the potential value of body worn cameras but have serious concerns about the many challenges inherent to equipping officers with cameras not just for police, but for prosecutors who will use the footage as evidence.
The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) said today that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 147 is gravely flawed and invites serious legal issues regarding how cases involving the “deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement officers” will be properly investigated during the critical, early hours and days after such a tragic incident occurs. Such ambiguity will prove harmful to the cause of justice, not only for the families of the deceased, but for the entirety of the impacted community.
Response from Frank Sedita, III, President of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (and Erie County District Attorney) to the State of the Judiciary Speech, February 17, 2015:
“Although I anticipate that many district attorneys throughout New York State will have significant concerns regarding many of his proposals, some of which appear to be insurmountable, the District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) is always open to discussing any proposal made by the Chief Judge and pertaining to the criminal justice system.”