WHEREAS, the following reports and studies establish that there have been a substantial number of innocent persons convicted nationally as well as in California: (a) A University of Michigan Law School study reported a total of 91 convictions overturned in 2013 and another 87 through November 2014, (b) the National Registry of Exonerations reported there have been 1,560 exonerations across the U.S (including 151 in California), (c) the L.A. Times reported the following 2014 California cases: Timothy Atkins declared factually innocent after serving 20 years, Susan Mellen declared factually innocent after serving 17 years and Michael Hanline released after serving 36 years in a case acknowledged as flawed;these cases represent the ”tip of the iceberg” of wrongful convictions particularly in light of the limited access to resources and ability to investigate claims of innocence from prison and lack of counsel and difficulty of obtaining counsel after conviction; and
WHEREAS, the likelihood of innocent persons being convicted may be reduced by changes in the law and policy to avoid the type of conduct that occurred in cases in which innocent persons were convicted such as eyewitness misidentification (the largest factor), failing to record interrogation of suspects in their entirety to prevent false confessions, and failure of prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence prior to trial; after conviction innocence may be established through DNA testing and the damages suffered by those wrongfully convicted can and should be relieved by adequate compensation; and
WHEREAS, the need to reform California’s criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions was recognized in the 2004 passage of State Senate Resolution 44 creating a Commission on Fair Administration of Justice, but proposals of the Commission have not yet been fully implemented;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley urges the
California legislature to enact changes in California law (including regarding procedure, evidence and professional conduct) that will reduce the likelihood of conviction of the innocent, incorporate a standard of proof for petitions for writ of habeas corpus regarding newly discovered evidence, ease the process of challenging wrongful convictions, provide for just compensation to innocent persons who have been convicted, and bolster public confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley will send a copy of this resolution to the Governor, the Speaker, the Pro Tem, and the Chairs of the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees.