Correcting Past Harms

 

 

 

  • Manhattan’s newly-elected DA must affirmatively strive to repair the decades’ worth of damage inflicted by Vance and his predecessors.  They must undertake a systematic and independent review of convictions that were wrongfully obtained as a result of constitutional violations, prosecutorial misconduct, and other errors, even for people who do not have strong claims of factual innocence. The DA must vacate convictions obtained as a result of militarized gang raids and broken window policing, felony convictions “bumped up” from misdemeanors, convictions resulting in enhanced sentences under predicate felony statutes, and charges that the office will no longer prosecute (including misdemeanors). The DA must also commit to a “second look” for people sentenced to long terms above the statutory minimum. 
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  • A “progressive” or decarceral DA must fundamentally change the strategy of the office’s Appeals Bureau and must end the practice of requiring appeal waivers in all plea cases and categorically opposing sentence reductions.  The DA’s office should concede or join appellate arguments where the convicted person’s constitutional rights were violated, and where other factors—such as ineffective assistance of trial counsel, failure to turn over exculpatory Brady evidence, or the seating of biased jurors—might have reasonably affected the fairness of the proceedings.  The DA should engage with such claims exclusively on the merits without raising technical bars to appellate review such as harmless error or lack of preservation (i.e., the defense’s failure to raise the issue in the lower court).
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  • The newly elected DA must also use the bully pulpit of the office to push for much-needed systemic reform on issues that cannot be adequately addressed through case-by-case charging decisions alone. The DA should support legislative measures to promote parolejustice, eliminate mandatory minimums and hate-crime sentencing enhancements, bar law enforcement from engaging in sweeping digital surveillance, and abolish fees and surcharges that criminalize poverty.