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Discovery reform mustn’t be left on the NY budget’s cutting room floor


New York’s pro-criminal legislative leaders rejected Gov. Kathy Hochul’s push, late in budget season, for some modest fixes to the 2019 law on pre-trial discovery.

But the need remains urgent, and they still have weeks in which to act.

Background: Lawmakers rammed the 2019 changes through without even consulting the state’s district attorneys, heeding only the criminal defense bar.

And shame on then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is in exile is again, claiming he’d stand up to the hard left, for signing it into law.

The changes basically force prosecutors to hand over every conceivable bit of evidence on a tight clock as soon as they arraign a suspect, or the case will likely get tossed.

In the past, they often worked out plea bargains long before even gathering all evidence (or, indeed, ever having to).


New York’s pro-criminal legislative leaders rejected Gov. Kathy Hochul’s push for some modest fixes to the 2019 law on pre-trial discovery.
Ron Adar/Shutterstock

So the new law added vast busywork — the ever-growing amount of cop bodycam footage alone requires onerous review and redaction to protect privacy rights.

Plus, they now must nail down irrelevant stuff, like every logbook from cops just tangentially involved in an arrest or investigation.

It also means revealing witness names far earlier — thereby requiring more resources for witness protection and making potential witnesses more reluctant.


Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon.
Staten Island DA Michael McMahon’s idea is to stagger the requirements on what to turn over and when to respect lawmakers’ goal of openness.
Paul Martinka

The crushing demands have brought record numbers of criminal cases dismissed, forced prosecutors to drop charges they’d otherwise file — and burned out staff, prompting record turnover at most DA offices.

Hochul (after consulting with Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and other impeccably progressive prosecutors) suggested things like giving judges more discretion to keep a case alive despite minor discovery violations, and/or only requiring DAs to turn over all relevant — rather than all related — evidence.

The Legislature’s leaders nixed it all, putting the rights of criminal defendants far ahead of those of crime victims.


Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon.
Some believe that moderate Democrats in the Assembly and State Senate should consider McMahon’s ideas.
Paul Martinka

Now Democratic DA Michael McMahon of Staten Island has another idea: Stagger the requirements on what to turn over when to respect lawmakers’ goal of openness but give prosecutors more time to comply.

The defense still gets everything well before trial; it just doesn’t get to play nit-picky games the whole way.

Pro-criminal progressives are hoping to use the final weeks of the session to push through more of their dubious “reforms,” such as the Clean Slate Act.

Moderate Democrats in the Assembly and state Senate should at least demand fair consideration of McMahon’s ideas, too.

The Legislature basically broke New York’s criminal justice system, inviting the current statewide crime wave. Sooner or later, lawmakers need to get serious about fixing it.



This story originally appeared on NYPost

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