NEW YORK STATE JUSTICE TASK FORCE
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Mission Statement

The mission of the Justice Task Force is to eradicate the systemic and individual harms caused by wrongful convictions and to promote public safety by examining the causes of wrongful convictions and recommending reforms to safeguard against any such convictions in the future.

About The Task Force

On May 1, 2009, Jonathan Lippman, Chief Judge of the State of New York, announced the creation of the New York State Justice Task Force—one of first permanent task forces on wrongful convictions in the United States. The Justice Task Force was formed with the belief that, while these cases of wrongful convictions are tragic, we can learn a valuable lesson from each of them. By closely examining new exonerations in New York to determine how the criminal justice system failed, the Justice Task Force hopes to identify any recurring patterns and practices that may be contributing to wrongful convictions in this state. It will also enable the Justice Task Force to consider what measures should be taken to reduce—and, ideally to eliminate—the incidence of wrongful convictions.

Recent reports on exonerations have confirmed that, despite our justice system’s commitment to the protection of the innocent, the fact remains that individuals have been convicted of crimes they did not commit. The Innocence Project recently reported that throughout New York State alone, 27 wrongfully convicted individuals have been exonerated through DNA testing since 1991. The New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Wrongful Convictions recently reviewed 53 exonerations in New York State, including those based on DNA tests as well as those based on other evidence of innocence.

Each of these cases represents a grave failure of our criminal justice system. Wrongful convictions of the innocent not only destroy the lives of those convicted, but also allow the actual perpetrator of the crime to go unpunished. When this occurs, justice is disserved and public safety is compromised. Additionally, exonerations of wrongfully convicted individuals undermine the public’s confidence in the reliability of the criminal justice system.

Accordingly, the Justice Task Force has been established to provide a forum for its members—prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, law enforcement personnel, legal scholars, legislative representatives, executive branch officials, forensic experts and victim advocates—to review and discuss new exoneration cases, as well as known causes of wrongful convictions, such as DNA testing (or lack thereof), eyewitness misidentifications, false confessions, and evidence preservation, to name a few. The differing institutional perspectives of the various Justice Task Force members create a deliberative process that will take into account the complex challenges presented both by the examination of wrongful convictions, and by the evaluation of various proposals and recommendations that will be intended to address the occurrence of wrongful convictions in this state.

In its work, the Justice Task Force will adopt a forward-looking approach to addressing the issue of wrongful convictions by building upon the work already done by the Innocence Project, the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Wrongful Convictions and innocence commissions in other states. Ultimately, as it moves forward with the responsibility charged to it by Chief Judge Lippman, the Justice Task Force will strive to remove the possibility that the innocent can be convicted of crimes they did not commit.

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