New Yorkers who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime joined with supporting elected officials outside of City Hall on Monday to demand that Gov. Kathy Hochul pen legislation that would help aid them in overturning convictions.
“Sign the bill! Sign the bill!” Demonstrators called out from behind a large banner just after noon on Oct. 2., which was commemorated as Wrongful Conviction Day. According to those championing the Wrongful Conviction Bill, the legislation would lower the barrier for people wrongfully convicted of crimes.
“We have seen how this system has treated Black, Brown, and poorer Americans for far too long. For far too long rich wealthy white Americans have gotten away with the worst crimes and thankfully that is being corrected not too far from here with Donald Trump,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said, referring to the civil fraud case taking place at the same time. “Black and Brown bodies have been in prisons for years and years and years.”
If made into law, the Wrongful Conviction Bill would make the process of challenging a wrongful conviction easier, most notably by allowing them to push for the court to reconsider the case even if they have pleaded guilty. Currently, this is only possible if new DNA evidence is discovered.
The bill passed both houses of Legislature in Albany earlier this year; however, Hochul has yet to commit herself to signing the bill. Those who say they have faced wrongful conviction spoke out during the rally in hopes of swaying the head of New York State to put pen to paper.
“I spent 21 years in prison for a crime I did not commit,” Derrick Hamilton said, urging for the bill to be inked. “I stand here today not just for me, but for the many men languishing in prison that call, that write to me, that talk to me every day. For the people who walk into my office, who over 20 years ago pled guilty to a crime they didn’t commit and they say: ‘Why can’t I come down and argue my innocence?’”
Some prosecutors are arguing against the bill, imploring Hochul to not sign it since they say that it would allow those guilty of crimes to take advantage and, making no plea final.
amNewYork Metro reached out to Hochul’s office and is awaiting a response.