Statement of City Bar President Samuel W. Seymour on the All Crimes DNA Bill

Last year, the City Bar supported the bill known as the “All Crimes DNA Bill,” which would extend DNA collection to all persons convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony in New York State. The Governor has included this approach in the Executive Budget. We supported this legislation, stressing the value of DNA evidence in helping both defendants and prosecutors since it can be used to assist in the investigation and prosecution of a crime, as well as in the exoneration of the wrongfully accused or convicted.

In order to accomplish both purposes, a DNA regime should afford defendants as well as prosecutors reasonable access to DNA evidence and comparisons. In that vein, we commend the inclusion of provisions in Assembly Member Lentol’s bill, A.5886, which are designed to clarify and expand a defendant’s ability to ask a judge to order DNA comparisons from existing evidence and existing databases, both pre- and post-conviction. We also applaud Chief Judge Lippman’s inclusion of enhanced access to DNA for defendants in yesterday’s State of the Judiciary message. The Senate and Assembly should seize this moment to come to agreement on a DNA bill which effectively serves the needs of both prosecutors and defendants.

While this would be an important step toward decreasing the incidence of wrongful convictions in New York, we note that expanded access to DNA is only one of a number of ways to decrease the incidence of wrongful convictions in New York. We also support increasing the use of recorded interrogations, codifying ‘actual innocence’ claims, clarifying ineffective assistance of counsel claims, and ensuring complete disclosure of exculpatory material.