Being charged with a crime is a serious and scary event, but being convicted of a crime that you did not commit is terrifying. The legal system, however, is not perfect, and unfortunately innocent people can end up in jail for crimes that they did not commit.
Three men were convicted of committing two murders in 1995 and have served 18 years in prison. The three men were charged with killing a cab driver and a FedEx executive. The police recently found two gang members who openly admitted to killing the cab driver. After the discovery of this new evidence, the men’s convictions were overturned and they were released from prison.
The three men noted how difficult it was to spend time in prison and explained the trouble that they had advocating for themselves while behind bars. Now that the men are free, they are looking forward to making up for lost time with their families and pursuing jobs, but unfortunately nothing can make up for the time they lost.
The legal community in New York recognizes that wrongful convictions are a worrisome problem. The New York State Bar Association has made wrongful convictions a priority and is working to advocate for change in the legislature. Last year, the organization worked on passing several measures that would add protections for those charged with crimes. Some of these measures include improving police line-ups, allowing defendants access to DNA evidence after a guilty plea, videotaping interrogations and expanding the DNA database.
Legislation to expand the DNA database and give access to defendants passed, but the organization feels that more can still be done and is hopeful that additional safeguards will be passed in the future. The most important safeguard being sought is videotaped interrogations. The organization hopes to pass legislation that will require that every interrogation of a charged individual be videotaped. Videotaped interrogations would give insight into whether a confession was coerced. Although there has been some support for videotaped interrogations, the State Bar is pushing to have the practice mandated by law.
A wrongful conviction can take years away from an innocent person’s life, and it is crucial that the state of New York does everything it can to safeguard the public from these occurrences. Those who were wrongfully convicted can often gain compensation for lost wages and pain and suffering after they prove their innocence. Speaking with an experienced civil rights attorney when faced with a wrongful conviction is an individual’s first step back to a normal life and better future.
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