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Monroe County DA shares concerns about criminal justice reform in New York

August 15, 2019 07:39 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Major changes are coming to the criminal justice system in New York state. Earlier this week, News10NBC talked with some of the top cops in our community who have concerns about the elimination of bail in most criminal arrests. Monroe County’s top prosecutor says that’s only the start of major changes coming to how crimes and suspects will be handled.   

The intent of the criminal justice reform, according to those who passed it in Albany, is to ensure suspects get to see all the evidence being used against them, get access to a speedy trial and don’t spend weeks or even months behind bars simply because they can’t afford to bail themselves out.  But, the top law enforcers in our area say there are going to be a lot of unforeseen consequences.   

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“It's a total overhaul of our criminal justice system as we know it,” District Attorney Sandra Doorley said. 

Come January, cash bail or bond will be eliminated for nearly all misdemeanors and many felony cases, meaning a suspect either gets an appearance ticket or will be released on their own recognizance.  

New York State Assemblyman Harry Bronson supported the change saying, "We shouldn't imprison people unless they've been convicted of a crime…to ask the state, through the district attorney’s office, to do the work necessary to prove their case against the person who has been charged, I don’t think is over burdensome at all."

But earlier this week, Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter told News10NBC he’s doubling the size of his warrant squad, worried that many of those accused of crimes in our community won’t fulfill the promise to come back to court.  

Doorley now explains how the legislation goes beyond just that. A suspect in any crime will now also have the legal right to ask a judge to return to the scene of a crime.  

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley: "I feel for the victims, I feel like that's yet another time where they're going to be victimized, especially if it's something that evades the privacy of their home. If it is coming to the site of a burglary or a sex abuse or a rape that occurred in their home."

News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke: "I want to make sure I understand this. I am the victim of a crime in my home. I would have to let the suspect come back into my home to see where the said crime allegedly happened?"  

Sandra Doorley: "That is correct." 

The only time in recent history that happened locally was during Charlie Tan’s murder trial. His attorney petitioned the court to bring both Tan and the jury to the scene of the murder. In a rare decision, the judge allowed it, but now those decisions won’t be so rare.  

Another big change going into effect in January is prosecutors will have to turn over all the evidence they’ve gathered against the accused within 15 days of that suspect’s arraignment including the minutes from secret grand jury proceedings. Doorley’s concern about that is giving a suspect all of the information about who is testifying against him/her so early in a case.

"We're afraid of increased witness tampering and witness intimidation,” Doorley told News10NBC.

Despite the concerns of local law enforcers, Bronson passionately supports the changes saying they create a more fair system.  

Doorley says it will likely triple the amount of paperwork her office has to file and for that, she will need to hire at least one new paralegal in each of her departments, which will come at a cost to taxpayers of upwards of $1 million. 

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Jennifer Lewke

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