Sacramento – By vetoing three bills that would have helped end wrongful convictions in California, the Governor made it more likely that innocent people will be convicted of crimes they did not commit and the guilty will go free. The ACLU of Northern California regrets the Governor’s decision.
“The Governor’s actions mean that wrongful convictions will continue to jeopardize public safety, as every time an innocent person is sent to prison, the true perpetrator remains free to commit more crimes,” said Natasha Minsker, death penalty policy director of the ACLU of Northern California. “Crime victims will continue to experience the trauma that Jennifer Thompson did when she learned that her mistaken eyewitness identification sent the wrong man to prison for assaulting her, leaving the true attacker on the streets for years.”
The bills would have required police recording of custodial interrogations (SB 511), corroboration of jailhouse informant testimony (SB 609), and the development of statewide standards for eyewitness identification procedures (SB 756).
Based on recommendations from the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, the bills addressed the most common causes of wrongful conviction and urgently needed criminal justice reforms.
The Commission, composed of law enforcement, prosecutors and defense attorneys, was created by the Senate in 2004 to study and review the administration of criminal justice in California. The bills were based on a series of unanimous recommendations from the Commission and were supported by a wide range people from across California and the nation, including civil rights groups, crime victims, and law enforcement.
Wrongful convictions have become a matter of national concern, leading other states and jurisdictions to enact similar reforms. Governor Schwarzenegger had the unprecedented opportunity to support all three reforms at once; instead, he becomes the first Governor to veto a package of bills that would have addressed the most common causes of wrongful convictions.
The ACLU of Northern California is disappointed by today’s vetoes and encourages the Governor to support public safety measures that aim to reform systemic problems, and not just those that create harsher penalties.
The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice will continue to hold public hearings and produce reports through 2008. For more information, please visit their website at www.ccfaj.org.