ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Public safety has been one of the major hold ups in the state’s now 12-day late budget. The Governor is pushing for some reform surrounding the least restrictive means standard and possibly discovery laws. But what exactly are discovery laws in the criminal context? Steve Coffey, partner at O’Connell and Aronowitz said in 2019, the changes to discovery forced the DA to disclose to the Defense Attorney their file, that includes all statements from witnesses, grand jury testimonies, photos, internal documents, anything pertaining to the case within 15 days.
“It’s a big advantage to the defense because now they have a right to see exactly what the DA is seeing. In effect, they’re looking at the same records as both sides,” said Coffey. While it’s unclear what changes are being proposed for discovery, some are saying there could be rollbacks. In a statement the Legal Aid Society said in part, “Now, Governor Hochul and local District Attorneys have proposed language that would essentially overturn this critical reform and return New York to a time when crucial evidence was withheld from the defense and our clients languished on Rikers Island for years.”
Paul DerOhanessian, a private attorney in civil litigation said he thinks the fundamentals of discovery law would remain the same, “Whether they change the time within which to respond, or whether there’s particular items that can be held back by the district attorney. Those are some of the changes toward the periphery of this law that may happen.” Coffey said DAs may not particularly love turning over information early it has helped the system because people know more, earlier. And when it comes to bail, he says judges should get more discretion. “Now the feeling is ‘Hey, this guys got a record, if he’s been around the block before we can set bail because we can put a hold on him and so that’s really the change, that’s going to happen because her own party is pushing it.”
Senator Jim Tedisco expressed his frustration that policy is even being included in the budget. “We should be dealing with affordability, New York State, people staying in the state, housing, healthcare, hospitals and nursing home cares, instead, were dealing with an issue that should’ve been taken care of probably over last year or before that,” said Tedisco. The budget extender is set to expire on Monday, the same day the legislative session is scheduled to resume.