You know things are bad when Mayor Bill de Blasio’s being more rational on an issue than Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But that’s the state of play on bracing for the impact of New York’s demented new rules on bail and pre-trial discovery.
Come Jan. 1, suspects indicted for most crimes won’t face jail if they can’t make bail — because the Legislature eliminated bail for all but the most violent felonies. In response, de Blasio is expanding the city’s Supervised Release program to help ensure that suspects actually show in court.
Launched in 2016 thanks to Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Jr., Supervised Release relies on social and case workers, not law enforcement, to get that job done. Tough-on-crime types may snark, yet the mayor’s at least trying to get ready for the coming change.
The rest of New York state, however, lacks the resources to boost pretrial services.
And Cuomo just basically flipped off the latest request from state Attorney General Tish James and New York’s DAs for more resources to try to handle the shift.
The discovery rules and more burdens. Prosecutors have long been obliged to share evidence with the defense well before the two sides square off at trial. But the Legislature this year lengthened the list of what the prosecution must hand over, and ordered it done 15 days after the suspect is charged, effective Jan. 1.
It’s nuts: Prosecutors and cops often haven’t even finished gathering evidence at that point. Crime labs serving much of the state are typically backed up longer than two weeks. Most worrisome, DAs will have to reveal witnesses’ names far earlier.
James warns that DAs with just a few attorneys for a whole county may have to “double” their support staffs; the largest offices, with the “most complex cases,” may need “investments in the double-digit millions.”
Vance’s office (with cash from big white-collar settlements) has the resources to partly adjust in time— but just about every other district attorney in the state is staring at a serious nightmare.
Oswego County DA Gregory Oakes explains, “The new discovery statute requires prosecutors to provide too much, too quickly, too often.”
Bronx DA Darcel Clark is blunter: It’ll be “impossible” to comply with the reforms with her current resources; she needs at least $15 million.
It’s crazy — especially when you realize the Legislature didn’t take testimony from a single DA, or even do informal discussions, before dropping this bomb.
Let alone appropriate any money so that prosecutors could make the new system work.
Stalwart progressives like James and Albany DA David Soares are sounding the alarms — but Cuomo is suddenly preaching the virtues of frugality.
“Everyone always says they want more funding,” the gov said Wednesday, flat-out refusing to even consider finding some cash.
New York law enforcement is clearly headed to a major crisis. We’re intensely curious as to how, when it hits, Cuomo is going to explain that it’s someone else’s fault.