CA Bills Seek to Prevent Wrongful Convictions

Criminal justice experts in a panel appointed by the state senate are urging the California legislature to pass new laws to help reduce the number of innocent defendants charged and convicted of crimes.

Proposed bills they recommend seek to prevent false eyewitness identifications by setting standards for police lineups, eliminating forced confessions by requiring interrogations to be recorded and bolstering notoriously unreliable jailhouse informant testimony by requiring it to be supported by other evidence or excluded at trial, reports the San Jose Mercury News (registration required).

All of these issues were frequently found to be behind questionable convictions in a special investigatory series by the newspaper, “Tainted Trials, Stolen Justice.”

“This isn’t a foolproof guarantee that we won’t have wrongful convictions. But it would substantially reduce the risk,” said Gerald F. Uelman. A criminal defense lawyer who teaches at Santa Clara University School of Law, he heads the panel that is recommending the proposed laws, along with former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp. It is known as the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.

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