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Hochul vetoes bill to ease post-conviction relief in New York

Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill shortly before Christmas that sought to make it easier for individuals who have pleaded guilty to crimes to challenge their convictions.

The Governor cited concerns about the potential for “flooding the courts with frivolous claims” due to the bill’s significant expansion of eligibility for post-conviction relief. The legislation, favored by criminal justice reformers but opposed by prosecutors, would have allowed new types of evidence, such as video footage or third-party confessions, to be considered in proving innocence. It also included provisions for arguments related to coercion in false guilty pleas.

The veto comes amidst a backdrop where New York’s highest court requires DNA evidence for those who plead guilty to challenge their convictions, a stipulation that limits defendants’ ability to present other compelling non-DNA evidence. The bill’s rejection highlights the challenges in balancing judicial efficiency with the rights of the wrongfully convicted.

Advocates like Amanda Wallwin from the Innocence Project criticized New York for lagging behind states like Texas in post-conviction statutes. The bill, if passed, would have provided court-appointed representation for those unable to afford an attorney and allowed access to both defense and prosecution files. Despite the veto, State Senator Zellnor Myrie, the bill’s sponsor, expressed intentions to reintroduce the legislation in the next session, underscoring the ongoing debate over wrongful convictions and the accessibility of post-conviction relief in New York.