NY lawmakers push to pass wrongful convictions act

Queens

QUEENS — For case after case, PIX11 News has been there as wrongfully convicted New Yorkers walked free, having had their cases overturned.

Thursday, a coalition of lawmakers, exonerated New Yorkers and The Innocence Project came together to push for a law that makes it easier for innocent people in prison to prove they don’t belong there.

“Last year, across the nation there were 150 exonerations, in New York State there were 15,” said civil rights attorney and supporter of the new law Tom Hoffman. “The obstacles in overturning a conviction is extremely difficult, with many challenges and many procedural hurdles.”

Since 1989, more than 300 New Yorkers have been exonerated of a crime, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. 

Hoffman has seen time and time again, people in prison often can’t afford a lawyer to keep fighting their case.

“It takes hundreds, if not thousands of hours of work.”

Manhattan Assemblyman Dan Quart is pushing to have the Challenging Wrongful Convictions Act passed in Albany. If enacted, anyone with a claim of innocence would be given access to an attorney and a working pathway to exoneration.

“So that individuals who are challenging their convictions have the same counsel, same or better, than they had at the trial,” Quart said.

Assemblyman Quart is passionate about this legislation, but he understands it requires significant funding, as the state faces a multi-billion dollar deficit.

“If we have to spend money to give people who were wrongfully convicted an opportunity to go before a judge and present that fact with credible evidence, then we must spend every dime possible.”

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