California legislature passes reforms to prevent wrongful convictions


This week, the California legislature approved three bills including significant reforms to prevent future wrongful convictions in the state. All three are now awaiting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature. He vetoed two similar bills last year, citing “drafting errors.”

The bills’ authors say the drafting issues have been addressed and they

called today on the governor to sign the bills immediately

. The first of the three bills passed this week would require that law enforcement agencies record interrogations of suspects, starting with Miranda warnings. This reform, already employed by several states, would prevent false confessions and help prosecutors and police officers do their jobs.

The second bill would require the state’s Attorney General to create new guidelines for law enforcement agencies to conduct eyewitness identification procedures according to accepted best practices.

Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction


The third bill would require prosecutors to present corroborating evidence before allowing a jailhouse informant to testify against a defendant.

An op-ed by three California lawmakers in today’s San Jose Mercury-News calls on Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign these vital bills:

Working to free innocent people wrongly imprisoned is a long process, often taken up by volunteer attorneys and law students who can serve only a small fraction of those who need assistance. This trio of bills would curb the most common causes of wrongful convictions and protect defendants, police, victims and the state.

Read the full story

. (San Jose Mercury News, 09/07/07)

View a map of reforms underway nationwide here


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