Wednesday, April 18, 2007

California Panel Pushes for ID Reform (Again)

The San Jose Mercury News is reporting this morning that a panel of justice experts has convened again to pressure the state to adopt a collection of reforms aimed at reducing wrongful convictions. The panel, formally known as the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, includes at least one defense attorney (who is also a law prof), and a former AG.

Last year, the same panel convened to push the same reforms, one of which being a bill to revamp police lineup procedures to reduce false identifications. The reforms met with widespread support -- "virtual unanimity" -- among prosecutors, defense attorneys, and victims-rights advocates. The bills (also including recorded interrogations, and a requirement that jailhouse snitch testimony be corroborated (!)) appeared to be winning propositions for everyone with an interest. Innocent people would be less likely to end up in prison. Victims and prosecutors would be more likely to nail the right guy. Defense lawyers would be less likely to face cases involving irreparably bad ID procedures that are notoriously insurmountable in court.

Last year, the bills were approved by the California Legislature, but vetoed by the governor with some inexplicable language about how the bills "denie[d] the public and their elected representatives the chance to approve or deny a statewide policy that could have a life-altering impact on an individual participating in our justice system." Curiously, the bills appeared to be aimed at doing just the opposite -- namely empowering the public and their elected representatives to approve exactly such a statewide police, with exactly such a life-altering impact on the innocent people who come in contact with the justice system.

Will Arnold put the doublespeak aside and "governate" for a change? We'll be keeping watch. Here's the bill in PDF.

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