NY Lawmakers Reinvigorate Push to Upend Wrongful Convictions

Michelle Bocanegra

February 01, 2023

Originally published in Gothamist on January 31, 2023.

New York state lawmakers mounted a renewed push on Tuesday for legislation that would deepen the well of resources for people challenging wrongful convictions, after the bill stalled in the Legislature last year.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Zellnor Myrie and Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry, aims to eradicate existing barriers for people wrongfully convicted of crimes who are seeking to make the case for exoneration. State law only allows people to be exonerated by way of new DNA evidence if they have already entered guilty pleas — a difficult bar to attain for people seeking to prove their innocence.

Speaking from the state Capitol building on Tuesday, Myrie’s remarks were regularly interrupted by people who said they had been wrongfully convicted of crimes, as they attempted to share their experiences with the public. The consequences of a wrongful conviction, Myrie said — pointing to shouts from the crowd — are all too real.

“How many days are appropriate for you to be in that cell?" Myrie asked. "Six months? Five months? Ten years? Thirty-eight years? A day?”

“A day in prison for a crime you did not commit is a day too long,” he said. “And for too many New Yorkers, as we see today — this is not a hypothetical. This isn’t just a press conference. This is life.”