Last night I was in my criminal law class, and we discussed New York Law CPL 240. I won’t bore you with too much legal jargon, but what CPL 240 does is permit the DA to withhold any evidence they have, or lack of evidence, from the defendant until the time of the trial. What this means is, even if the DA has no evidence on the defendant, the defendant can still accept a plea to avoid a larger sentence if the trial goes to court with an unpredictable jury.
It’s a game of high stakes poker, that sometimes involves innocent citizens.
The lawyers and retired detectives at Discovery for Justice, are fighting to overturn this situation.
Why is it important to change the way discovery is conducted in New York State?
A person who is accused of committing a crime is in a very serious situation. His/her freedom is at stake. Without having the necessary information, a defendant and his/her attorney cannot fairly weigh a plea offer, develop a trial strategy, investigate the charges against him/her, or find and use any evidence that may help the defendant or show his/her innocence.
By forcing both sides to exchange information early on, intelligent decisions can be made based on the evidence. Defense lawyers would not be forced to submit unnecessary paperwork and request hearings just so that they can get the information that they need. Defense lawyers could advise a defendant based on actual evidence. A defendant could decide whether to proceed to trial or accept a plea based on the evidence against him/her. Cases could be resolved quicker. But these things can only happen if there is a change in New York’s discovery rules.
I am all in favor of what Discovery for Justice is working towards, and if you are interested check out their website, sign the petition, and contact your local representative.