Monday, June 18, 2007
Recently, Brooklyn Law School CrimProf William E. Hellerstein testified at a New York State Assembly joint committee legislative hearing in Albany on a bill by Governor Elliot Spitzer proposing an expansion of the State’s use of DNA evidence to solve crimes and exonerate the innocent. The bill, which has already been approved by the Senate, has drawn fire for including a proposal to set a deadline of for convicted criminals to challenge their convictions, except for claims of newly discovered evidence, like DNA, proving innocence.
Professor Hellerstein, teaches Criminal Procedure and Constitutional Law and directs the Law School’s Second Look Clinic. Before joining the Brooklyn Law School faculty, he served as Chief of the Criminal Appeals Bureau of the Legal Aid Society of New York for 16 years. In his testimony before the Assembly’s joint committee, he argued against several proposals in Governor Spitzer’s bill, including the proposed one-year limit on challenging convictions, the limit to a single filing of a challenge on behalf of a defendant, and the creation of an Office of Wrongful Conviction Review within the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
“While I applaud provisions in the bill that facilitate access to DNA database and ease the way in several other respects with regard to DNA,” Professor Hellerstein said, “The provisions in the bill which place new limitations on a defendants ability to challenge his conviction on the basis of constitutional violations such as prosecutorial misconduct and the denial of the right to the effective assistance of counsel, are unfair, unwise, and internally inconsistent with a legislative program that ostensibly is concerned with reducing the incidence of wrongful convictions, not adding to it.” [Mark Godsey]