UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – The impact that New York’s Discovery Law has had on the criminal justice system, recruitment, and retention has been highlighted in a recent study by the Manhattan Institute.
Oneida County District Attorney, Scott McNamara, shares his thoughts on the findings.
“I think the report’s pretty clear that this discovery reform has basically gutted New York State’s criminal justice system,” he said.
“It’s something that needs to be addressed because it just continues to be a major problem for myself and DAs throughout the whole state.”
McNamara explains that he has never advocated for abolishing the Discovery Law completely but instead make necessary changes.
He adds that when the law was originally passed, it was done by people who have a “utopic view of the criminal justice system in society.”
“They don’t ask the professionals in the system what really could be changed, and what should be changed, and I’ll give you a perfect example,” he said, “We have a certain period of time before the trial that we have to turn everything over and my position was 30 days, okay?”
He continued, “So, 30 days before the trial, we have to give the defense attorneys everything – seems pretty fair to me, and Texas uses that model.”
“But no, they wanted it tied to arraignment.”
He goes on to explain that, on many occasions, the problem when you tie it to the arraignment date is that the discovery is not even relevant to the outcome of the case, and many people are winning and losing cases on technicalities.
“Even the report says the numbers as high as 60% of all discovery is never looked at,” explained McNamara, “Now why are we doing all that work? Other than, and I think this was the whole goal, was to crush the prosecution.”
He continued, “They’re more concerned right now about, not resolving the case, but by winning the trial, by winning the case, by getting it dismissed on speedy trial grounds.”
“And so, that’s all well and good, I guess, if that’s what the legislature and the governor wanted out of our criminal justice system, but it doesn’t really seem fair to me – to the businesses that are having their property stolen, to victims of crime, that are losing on technicalities.”
Again, McNamara doesn’t want the law completely abolished, he just wants it to be more realistic.
“Change the word related, like the report says,” he explained, “Change the compliance requirement to be 30 days before the trial instead of making us do discovery on every single case, including the cases that we don’t even tend on prosecuting.”
“And so that’s one of the things that’s an easy fix. I hope the governor and the legislature really care about the victims and the people in this community and want to make these changes because these are easy-fix changes.”