senate Bill S49

Amended

Establishes the actual innocence justice act 2014

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Bill Status


  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor
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  • 09 / Jan / 2013
    • REFERRED TO CODES
  • 08 / Jan / 2014
    • REFERRED TO CODES
  • 23 / Jan / 2014
    • AMEND AND RECOMMIT TO CODES
  • 23 / Jan / 2014
    • PRINT NUMBER 49A

Summary

Establishes the actual innocence justice act of 2014; clarifies that convicted persons who can demonstrate a reasonable probability that they are innocent will have the right to challenge their convictions under the law, notwithstanding any other procedural or technical provisions of law that would have prevented them from doing so.

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Bill Details

See Assembly Version of this Bill:
A3492
Versions:
S49
S49A
Legislative Cycle:
2013-2014
Current Committee:
Senate Codes
Law Section:
Criminal Procedure Law
Laws Affected:
Amd §440.10, CP L
Versions Introduced in Previous Legislative Cycles:
2011-2012: S729A, A6551A, A6651A
2009-2010: S6234C, A6219, A9736B, S6234B
2007-2008: A4878

Sponsor Memo

BILL NUMBER:S49

TITLE OF BILL:
An act
to amend the criminal procedure law, in relation to establishing the
actual innocence justice act of 2013

PURPOSE:
This bill would permit the Court in which a judgment of conviction was
entered to grant a post conviction motion to vacate a judgment based
on actual innocence.

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section one of the bill entitles the act the "Actual Innocence Justice
Act of 2013".

Section two of the bill adds a new paragraph (j) to subdivision one of
section 440.10 of the Criminal Procedure Law to provide that actual
innocence shall be a ground upon which a defendant may base his or
her post-conviction motion.

Section three of the bill amends subdivision (4) of section 440.10 of
the Criminal Procedure Law to require in certain circumstances that
the court dismiss the accusatory instrument.

Section four of the bill adds a new paragraph (9) of section 440.10 to
require in certain circumstances the court address the merits of any
claim for relief.

Section five of the bill establishes the effective date.

JUSTIFICATION:
Over the past twenty years, 284 DNA exonerations of convicted
innocents in the United States have drawn the attention of citizens
and legislatures around the country to the phenomenon of wrongful
convictions of the innocent. According to the data provided by the
Innocence Project, twenty-six, or nearly 10%, of those 284
exonerations were in the State of New York. In addition, the New York
State Bar Association's Task Force on Wrongful Convictions recently
identified and studied fifty-three "judicial/formal exonerations"
over the last twenty-odd years, thirty-one of them non-DNA
exonerations. Thirty-nine additional non-DNA exonerations have been
identified in preparing this legislation, mainly by examining the
results of compensation actions pursuant to Court of Claims Act
8-b. Thus, at least ninety-five men and women have been clearly
identified in New York as having spent years, sometimes decades, in
prison for murders, rapes, and other serious crimes they did not
commit. A significant number of other reversals and vacaturs have
occurred where there was strong evidence of innocence, but for one
reason or another cannot be included in a set of clear-cut
"exonerations." Thus wrongful convictions are not a trivial problem
in New York.
As Judge Lippman recently wrote in Hurrell-Harring v. State:
"Wrongful conviction, the ultimate sign of a criminal justice system's
breakdown and failure, has been documented in too many cases." 2010
WL 1791000 (N.Y. May 6, 2010).


Many exonerations in New York were achieved through the litigation
of CPL .440.10 motions, demonstrating that New York's post-conviction
statute is an excellent avenue of collateral relief
for many innocent individuals - a good model, in fact, for other
states to follow. Yet it has become clear that some state court
judges are not providing justice in such cases, often because of
their interpretation of the procedural limitations of the current
law. In the case of Marty Tankleff, the lower court denied Tankleffs
motion to vacate judgment based on 440.10(1)(g) and 440.10(1)(h).
Tankleffs direct appeal of the verdict to the appellate division and
a federal habeas appeal had also been previously denied. In denying
the motion based on 440.10(1) (g), the trial Court found the
defendant did not exercise due diligence in moving for a new trial.
The 440.10(1) (h) motion was denied based on the court's finding that
there exists no constitutional right to relief based on actual
innocence. If it had not been for the appellate division remitting
the case to the county court for a new trial, Tankleffs wrongful
conviction would most likely never have been heard due to the limited
nature of the few remedies available to him. It is intolerable that
any person in New York whose trial has been shown to have led to a
manifest injustice should remain in prison on a technicality under
state law.

For individuals like Marty Tankleff, the Criminal Procedure Law
currently offers only limited hope for collateral relief by
establishing a series of post-conviction procedural roadblocks that,
taken together, can deprive an innocent person from having his or her
innocence claim fully and fairly aired. The tragic result--as
graphically demonstrated in hundreds of wrongful conviction cases
throughout the country - is that an innocent person can spend years
or even decades behind bars while the real perpetrator remains free
to commit more crimes and terrorize additional victims. This bill is
intended to renew and strengthen the authorization of state court
judges, despite any and all procedural or other technical obstacles,
to re-visit and give a fair hearing to any case that presents to the
reasonable mind a serious doubt about factual guilt.

Procedural hurdles to relief have sometimes been overcome in various
jurisdictions around the country by way of a "free-standing" claim of
actual innocence on constitutional grounds. The Supreme Court has not
yet explicitly held that such a claim can be brought under the United
States Constitution. As Justice Roberts wrote for a 5-4 majority in
DA's Office v. Osborne, 129 S. Ct. 2308, 2321 (2009): "Whether a
federal right to be released upon proof of actual innocence exists is
an open question." But several state courts have held that such a
claim exists under their state constitutions (including Illinois,
California, Connecticut, Missouri, New Mexico, and Texas). The New
York Court of Appeals has yet to consider the issue directly,
although a handful of trial courts have begun to do so and found
compelling grounds to recognize a convicted person's right to
post-conviction relief based on proof of actual innocence under state
law. In 2003, a New York state judge held for the first time that
Article I § 6 of the New York State Constitution prohibits the
execution or incarceration of an innocent person and that a
free-standing claim of actual innocence is therefore cognizable under
440.10(1) (h). People v. Cole, 1 Misc. 3d 531, 765 N.
Y.S. 2d 477 (Sup. Ct., Kings Cty. 2003). In 2009 two other trial court


judges held similarly and granted relief on the ground of actual
innocence on constitutional grounds under CPL 440.10(1) (h), the
movants having shown they were innocent by clear and convincing
evidence. People v. Bermudez, 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 52302U, 25 Misc. 3d
1226A (Sup. Ct., N.Y. Cty., Nov. 9, 2009) People v. Wheeler-Whichard,
2009 N.Y. Slip Op.
51647(U), (Sup. Ct., Kings Cty;, July 30, 2009).

This bill, therefore, provides that a finding of actual innocence is
now an appropriate basis for New York courts to overturn a criminal
conviction under a newly added paragraph (i) of CPL § 440.10(1). The
judge is directed to grant relief where it is "established by clear
and convincing evidence that no trier of fact would have convicted
the defendant under a reasonable doubt standard and in light of all
available evidence." Thus, the judge is to consider all relevant
evidence without regard to trial rules of admissibility. Paragraph
(1)(4) is amended to clarify that, as held in Cole, Bermudez, and
Wheeler-Whichard, the proper remedy for such a finding is vacatur of
the conviction and dismissal of the indictment.

In addition, a new paragraph (9) clarifies that convicted people who
can demonstrate a reasonable probability that they are innocent will
have the right to challenge their convictions under the statute,
notwithstanding any other procedural and other technical provisions
of the statute that would have prevented them from doing so. Several
states have taken for granted that due process requires them to
forgive these "procedural defaults" where a likelihood of innocence
is present. See, e.g., Workman v. State, 41 S.W.3d 100, 102 (Tenn.
2001) Reedy v. Wright, 60 Va. Cir. 18,26 (Va. Cir. Ct. 2002) i State
v. Pope, 80 P.3d 1232, 318 Mont. 383 (2003); Clay v.
Dormire, 37 S.W.3d 214, 217 (Mo. 2000). This paragraph is intended to
provide relief from procedural defaults or other technical
requirements in addition to, and independently of, any judicial
finding that such relief is required under the Due Process Clause of
either the Federal or State Constitutions.

The very purpose and design of CPL § 440.10 is to provide defendants
with an opportunity to fully vindicate their rights and to provide a
post-conviction court with an opportunity to correct miscarriages of
justice. 34 N.Y. Jur. 2d, Criminal Law § 3047. The miscarriage of
justice with the greatest call on the Court's conscience is a long
prison sentence or execution of a person who is entirely innocent of
the crime for which he is being punished. These amendments are
intended to require judges to treat claims of actual innocence with
the seriousness they warrant, and to permit them to adjudicate
reasonable claims of innocence without becoming entangled in legal
uncertainties and technicalities.

The grounds upon which a defendant can make a motion to vacate
judgment must be expanded.
It is presumably a rare instance where one previously convicted is
able to later conclusively satisfy the court that he or she in fact
did not commit the criminal acts that form the basis of that
conviction. In these rare and exceptional cases, the administration
of justice would be deeply flawed if a set of procedural restrictions
could permanently foreclose any option of overturning a wrongful
conviction and offering a new trial to an innocent defendant. This


bill is intended to address these rare instances by creating an
express provision, within the existing CPL post-conviction framework,
for "actual innocence" to be adjudicated and true justice achieved.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
2011-12: S.729-A
2009-10: S.6234-C Referred to Codes and Advanced to
3rd Reading

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS:
None.

EFFECTIVE DATE:
This act shall take effect immediately.

view bill text
                    S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K
________________________________________________________________________

                                   49

                       2013-2014 Regular Sessions

                            I N  S E N A T E

                               (PREFILED)

                             January 9, 2013
                               ___________

Introduced  by  Sen. PERALTA -- read twice and ordered printed, and when
  printed to be committed to the Committee on Codes

AN ACT to amend the criminal procedure law, in relation to  establishing
  the actual innocence justice act of 2013

  THE  PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  Section 1. Short title.  This act shall be known as the "actual  inno-
cence justice act of 2013".
  S  2.  Subparagraph  (ii) of paragraph (i) of subdivision 1 of section
440.10 of the criminal procedure law, as added by  chapter  332  of  the
laws  of  2010,  is  amended and a new paragraph (j) is added to read as
follows:
  (ii) official documentation of the defendant's status as a  victim  of
sex  trafficking  or  trafficking  in persons at the time of the offense
from a federal, state or local government agency shall create a presump-
tion that the defendant's participation in the offense was a  result  of
having  been  a victim of sex trafficking or trafficking in persons, but
shall not be required for granting a motion under this paragraph[.]; OR
  (J) THE DEFENDANT IS ACTUALLY INNOCENT OF THE CRIME OR CRIMES OF WHICH
HE OR SHE WAS CONVICTED. FOR PURPOSES OF THIS PARAGRAPH, A DEFENDANT  IS
ACTUALLY  INNOCENT  WHERE  IT  IS  ESTABLISHED  BY  CLEAR AND CONVINCING
EVIDENCE THAT NO TRIER OF FACT WOULD HAVE CONVICTED THE DEFENDANT  UNDER
A REASONABLE DOUBT STANDARD AND IN LIGHT OF ALL AVAILABLE EVIDENCE.
  S 3. Subdivision 4 of section 440.10 of the criminal procedure law, as
amended  by  chapter  332  of  the  laws  of 2010, is amended to read as
follows:
  4. If the court grants the motion, it  must,  except  as  provided  in
subdivision  five  or six of this section, vacate the judgment, and must
dismiss the accusatory instrument, or order a new trial,  or  take  such
other  action  as is appropriate in the circumstances.  IF THE DEFENDANT

 EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                      [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                           LBD01072-01-3

S. 49                               2

HAS ESTABLISHED BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT HE OR SHE IS ACTU-
ALLY INNOCENT, IN THAT NO TRIER OF FACT WOULD HAVE CONVICTED THE DEFEND-
ANT OF THE OFFENSE OR OFFENSES UNDER A REASONABLE DOUBT STANDARD AND  IN
LIGHT  OF ALL AVAILABLE EVIDENCE, THE COURT SHALL DISMISS THE ACCUSATORY
INSTRUMENT.
  S 4. Section 440.10 of the criminal procedure law is amended by adding
a new subdivision 9 to read as follows:
  9. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF THIS SECTION, THE COURT MUST
ADDRESS THE MERITS OF ANY CLAIM FOR RELIEF WHEN THE CLAIMANT  CAN  SHOW,
IN LIGHT OF ALL AVAILABLE EVIDENCE, THAT THERE EXISTS A REASONABLE PROB-
ABILITY THAT HE OR SHE IS ACTUALLY INNOCENT.
  S 5. This act shall take effect immediately.

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