NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A5306A
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the court of claims act and the tax
law, in relation to claims for unjust conviction and imprisonment
To provide compensation and other benefits in the Court of Claims for
people who have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated in New York
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 names this act "the wrongfully convicted recovery act."
Section 2 amends section 8-b of the court of claims act to establish
remedies for responding to claims for unjust conviction and imprison-
ment, and to establish conditions under which a person is eligible for
remedies under this section.
Section 3 adds a new section 13-a to the tax law. This section exempts
cash awards granted under this section to be exempt from taxation.
Section 4 provides an effective date.
There have been approximately 1,810 exonerations of wrongfully convicted
individuals nationwide since 1989; 214 of them in New York State. Of
those exonerated in New York, 38 were based on DNA evidence, eight of
which occurred in the past 5 years. There have also been exonerations in
non-DNA cases involving false confessions, eye-witness error, false
evidence, and police, prosecutor or judicial misconduct. In New York
State, the total years served for those who were exonerated was in
excess of 2,000, averaging 9.74 years in prison per person for crimes
they did not commit. In 2014, the Brooklyn DA created the Conviction
Review Unit (CRU) which has exonerated 20 people through 2016.
One of the most recent set of exonerations from the CRU involved three
men who were found guilty of starting a fire that killed a mother and
her five children in 1980 inside a Park Slope brownstone. The CRU
"concluded that the single eyewitness who connected them to the crime
was a habitual liar who recanted on her death bed" and that the science
used to determine that the fire was arson was in fact junk science.
Current fire experts determined that the fire was probably accidental.
Two of the exonerated defendants served over 30 years each in prison and
the third died behind bars.
People who are wrongfully convicted often spend decades in prison and
emerge with no money and few job skills, have not worked long enough to
receive social security benefits, and have little or no financial
support from family or friends. They may need extensive therapy, have
medical issues, or simply be too old to participate significantly in the
work force. It is imperative that the State compensate these individuals
for the time they have been wrongfully incarcerated and give them the
ability to make a fresh start in the years remaining to them. This bill
would give the Court of Claims the authority to provide broad financial
relief to such individuals and to give them health benefits and access
to re-entry programs.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
2016: A10169-A referred to judiciary.
2017: A5306- Referred to Judiciary.
2018: A5306-A Referred to Judiciary.
To be determined.
LOCAL FISCAL IMPLICATIONS:
To be determined.
This act shall take effect immediately.