Assemblyman Joe Lentol announced this week that he will be introducing legislation allowing people wrongfully convicted of a crime, and whose conviction is subsequently overturned to present a claim for damages against the state. This legislation is being introduced at the request of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
The Unjust Imprisonment Act will revise Section 8-b of the New York State Court of Claims Act, which was adopted in 1984 and updated in 2007. The current law allows the wrongfully convicted to pursue a claim only if that person can show they “did not by their own conduct, cause or bring about their conviction.”
While people who have falsely confessed or pleaded guilty to crimes they did not commit may be considered to have “caused or brought about” their conviction, research has shown a large majority of wrongful convictions are a result of coerced false confessions. The amended legislation allows those who can prove their actual innocence, even after pleading guilty, to pursue a claim.
“New York State law currently presents unnecessary and unjust barriers to recovery for some individuals who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned,” Lentol said. “It is bad enough to be locked up for 20 years for a crime you did not commit, but even worse if you can’t get compensated for the time you lost.
Since 1991, 27 people in New York have had their convictions reversed because of DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project. At least 10 of those 27 people has also made false criminating statements or pleaded guilty.
“I am proud to sponsor this legislation to fix the law, and I thank the Attorney General for his leadership on this issue,” Lentol concluded.
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