(NEW YORK, NY) – As a vocal minority of New York’s District Attorneys seek to undermine hard-fought reforms in discovery laws – which simply require prosecutors to disclose all relevant information in a case in a reasonable timeframe – Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem today urged the legislature to resist any rollbacks.
“The New York City DAs’ proposed changes to New York’s discovery laws must be wholly rejected as both bad policy and bad process. They are based on outright misrepresentations of what is happening in court and are the result of private lobbying that has excluded public defenders and impacted communities from the conversation,” said Meghna Philip, Special Litigation Attorney with NDS. “We join fellow defenders, legal experts and advocates in urging Assemblymembers and Senators to say NO to any changes to our discovery laws. What is needed is FUNDING to ensure that the discovery laws can be properly implemented, not rollbacks that will result in more case delays, wrongful convictions, and coerced guilty pleas.”
Discovery laws were enacted to prevent unjust incarceration and wrongful convictions. They are necessary to ensure that defense counsel can thoroughly investigate cases, properly advise clients, and develop an effective defense. They are also necessary to allow people facing charges to make an informed decision about whether to plead guilty.
In 2019, New York enacted comprehensive discovery reforms to ensure that New Yorkers accused of crimes have timely access to the most important information in their case, bringing New York’s discovery law in line with those of the rest of the country. Any rollbacks to these laws will bring us back to a time where evidence was buried and empty statements of readiness for trial were the norm.