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A call for action on bail reform laws

Law enforcement, district attorneys, and political representatives are pushing for changes to the bail reform laws.

Posted: Jan 21, 2020 5:53 PM
Updated: Jan 21, 2020 6:28 PM

UTICA - The bail reform laws passed in the state budget are causing concern in communities across New York State.

Sen. Joe Griffo is spearheading efforts for change. 

"We’re seeing some Democratic legislators now calling for bail reform, particularly in the Senate, and this is in my opinion just lip service because these individuals voted for this, and had an opportunity. They could have joined us two weeks ago, or a week ago, to change this, but refused when they had the opportunity."

The law was passed without any input from law enforcement, district attorneys, or judicial representatives.

Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke briefly about bail reform in Tuesday's state budget address. 

"You make a change in a system. It has consequences, and you have to understand those consequences. We need to respond to the facts, but not the politics."

The issue may sound purely political, but the victims are starting to stack up, and there’s no justice in sight. Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara talked about the problems surrounding discovery. 

"Nobody cooperates because of the discovery laws that require us to turn in their name, their address, their grand jury testimony, and their statements over to the defendants 15 days after arrest. No one’s cooperating. Big surprise."

Griffo, a Republican, thinks changes to discovery should also be addressed in the law. 

"There are issues in discovery that are problematic where you’re letting criminals actually have more rights than victims, and you’re not going to have victims come forward because they’re going to say: I don’t want to engage in this process, and that’s not going to be good for trying to hold people accountable for the actions that perpetrate crime."

Utica now has three unsolved homicides, and a very frustrated police chief. Chief Mark Williams explained what his officers are encountering. 

"From a local perspective, what we’re seeing… my officers are seeing on the street, which is very discouraging is that a lot of the gun offenders that we are arresting… they’re being released shortly thereafter, and their names are reappearing in other shootings."

Griffo believes a realistic goal is to pass a Senate bill that allows courts to make an appropriate risk assessment based upon an individual’s previous criminal history.

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