“Defending Yourself In The Dark”: New York Continues To Face Issues With Unfair Discovery Laws
We’ve previously discussed the issue of a huge problem that New York faces in its criminal justice system before; this issue of prosecutors withholding evidence until the last minute, and how this not only violates defendants’ rights to a fair trial, but actually contributes to the number of wrongful convictions every year. For years, prosecutors have exploited this advantage to the detriment of parties already facing the loss of liberty and burdened by a disparity in resources.
While Gov. Cuomo recently proposed a fix in the state budget, it is still far from the standard set by the federal government and various other states. This keeps those facing criminal prosecution purposely left in the dark regarding the proof against them.
The Sixth Amendment Violated Regularly, Every Day
Criminal cases in New York can proceed for months or years without prosecutors having to disclose to defense attorneys some of the most essential, basic pieces of evidence required in order simple judicial efficiency; documents such as those relevant to the identity of the individual accusing the defendant, police reports, and even prior witness testimony. As of now, some prosecutors will make a habit of handing significant amounts of this “discovery material” to the defense just prior to jury selection, or demanding that defendants decide on plea bargains before they have access to any of this material.
Why does this happen in the state of New York? New York has a very old, outdated discovery statute, and state prosecutors have arguably used that illegitimate statutory advantage for their own benefit instead of upholding your constitutional rights and their duty of fairness. The result is a discovery practice that has, for many years, regularly violated the constitutional rights of the most marginalized people in society: The Sixth Amendment right to counsel and right to a fair trial are arguably meaningless if those charged with providing this counsel have significant hurdles like these placed in their path every day. While there are many important duties involved in criminal defense, none are perhaps as important as the duty to fully investigate claims against one’s client.
And yet, the current statutory framework in New York makes this exceedingly difficult. The result is an injustice that infects the entire system, and results in many people, every day, pleading guilty to serious crimes without reading a single police report first; innocent people who then remain at Rikers Island on bail they cannot afford while information that could secure their release is withheld from them.
New York currently has a more restrictive discovery statute than Alabama, North Carolina, Texas, and 43 other states. This is embarrassing. Our state should, instead, be leading the charge in criminal justice reform.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving New York
If you live in New York and have been accused of committing a crime, working with experienced, passionate legal counsel is the first and most important step in ensuring you do not become a victim of the system. Contact criminal defense attorney Phillip J. Murphy today to find out how we can help.