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Sen. DeFrancisco Hopes Gov. Signs Legislation Creating Commission to Oversee Prosecutors

Prosecutors in New York State might soon find themselves under a bit more scrutiny if the Governor signs a bill by a local state Senator that was approved by the legislature.  But how it might help ensure justice?  

John DeFrancisco’s  measure could help right some wrongs that happen in trials … somtimes uncovered when genetic evidence exonerated people who were convicted and sent to prison.

"As the judges were being asked to release the individuals because the DNA didn't match, it was found out in many cases that prosecutors did not provide exculpatory, or favorable information to the defendance that they had in their possession, which is required by law to do.  That became another reason for the reversal of the convictions."

The bill calls for a State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct.  He says it could weed out any prosecutors who might be overzealous seeking convictions. 

 "Prosecutors that might otherwise think of the prosecution's success of in a case over what the laws and regulations are.  This is just a check and balance over those few people who are doing the wrong thing." 

He stresses 99 percent of DA’s follow rules … but there can be pressure in the most serious cases.

 "The more notorious the alleged crime, the more publicity there is about cases, the more at stake, such as murder cases, then there is an attitude by some prosecutors that we need a conviction."

DeFrancisco modeled it after a similar commission that has overseen judges for decades.

"Many of the complaints about judges don't happen anymore because judges changed thier conduct.  Judges have accepted it after many years of complaining in the 1970's beacuse, in most cases, judges are exonerated from false allegations of wrongdoing."

There’s more at stake than justice for the person wrongly convicted.  The public is paying millions to keep sometimes innocent people in prison, as well as lawsuits over the tainted convictions.  The bill is on Governor Cuomo’s desk to sign or veto… and would go into effect next January.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at