For Immediate Release
Contact: Jacky Johnson
(510) 717-2260 | Jacky@justleadershipusa.org
Dozens of New Yorkers Join Day of Action in Albany to Push NY Senate to Pass Legislation Fixing Broken Speedy Trial Process
A Week after the New York State Assembly Passed the Bill with Near Unanimous Bipartisan Support, Advocates Call on Senate to Act
June 8, 2016 (Albany, NY)— On Wednesday, dozens of New Yorkers rallied to bring awareness to the speedy trial bill S5988-A (Squadron) / A8296-A (Aubry). A week ago the New York State Assembly passed the bill with an overwhelming bipartisan support of 138-2. Dozens of New Yorkers called on the Senate to act, including JustLeadershipUSA; Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice; VOCAL-NY; New York Working Families; 1199 SEIU; Legal Aid; Bronx Defenders; Brooklyn Defender Services, New York Civil Liberties Union, and more.
The speedy trial bill S5988-A/A 8296-A — sponsored by Senator Daniel Squadron in the Senate and Assemblyman Jeffrion in the Assembly — would prevent chronic trial delays that force thousands of New Yorkers to spend months and even years in costly pre-trial detention.
Among the speakers at a press conference and panel discussion was Akeem Browder, the brother of Kalief Browder, whose harrowing story made national news: Kalief Browder was accused of stealing a backpack and detained on Rikers Island for three years, mostly in solitary confinement, before being released and having his cased dismissed.
The right to a speedy trial is enshrined in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In New York State, it is implemented through Criminal Procedure Law 30.30, also known as the speedy trial law. The current speedy trial law governs two important areas: The first relates to pre-trial detention: how long someone can be detained, before a trial, before that person must be released on bail or recognizance (90 days if charged with a felony; 30 days charged with a Class A misdemeanor). The second outlines how quickly a trial must be held before a criminal case must be dismissed: within six months for a felony; within 90 days for a Class A misdemeanor.
But the speedy trial law contains loopholes that, when compounded by severe court backlogs, leads to astonishing delays for people who have been charged — but not convicted — of a crime. Thus, someone can be detained in jail pre-trial, for three years – as Kalief Browder was – without ever being convicted of a crime. This is wrong, is inconsistent with New York values of fairness and equity, and goes against the spirit of the Constitution.
The speedy trial bill — S 5988-A (Squadron) /A 8296-A (Aubry) — would fix New York’s speedy trial statute, improve the effectiveness of New York’s criminal justice system, and ensure that people are not unjustly and unnecessarily held in pre-trial detention.
“The unanimous passage of the speedy trial bill in the Assembly shows that this is an issue that transcends party lines. An overwhelming majority of the Assembly body recognized that it is fundamentally wrong to incarcerate an individual for months and years without a trial,” said Assemblymember Jeff Aubry and bill sponsor of A8296-A. “It goes against the very fabric of our constitution to allow this deficiency in our justice system to continue without trying to remedy it—my Assembly colleagues recognized this very basic truth and have done their part by passing this legislation; now it’s time for the Senate to do the same.”
“A year ago, Kalief Browder took his own life after suffering for years at the hands of a broken justice system,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron and bill sponsor of S5988-A. “Our broken speedy trial law failed Kalief, and fails too many New Yorkers day in and day out. The state’s failure to guarantee speedy trials infringes on the constitutional rights of the accused, and the need for justice and closure for victims. The Senate Majority must allow a vote on Kalief’s Law, and join the Assembly in a push to fix this broken law. I thank Assemblymember Aubry, New York Working Families, Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, JustLeadershipUSA, Legal Aid, and the many advocates, organizations, and impacted New Yorkers calling for reform.”
“Without this reform of the criminal procedure law, thousands of New Yorkers will unnecessarily remain locked up for years in jails across the state, without benefit of trial and costing the taxpayers millions of dollars. This totally undermines our state’s commitment to fairness and due process,” said Glenn Martin, Founder and President, JustLeadershipUSA. “Right now thousands of people who have not been convicted of any crime are marooned on Rikers Island in New York City and at other jails across the state where they are at risk of violence and even death. It now takes an average of 570 days for a criminal case to come to trial before a jury. Such extreme court delays are unconscionable.”
“The anniversary of my brother’s death was on Monday, June 6th, said Akeem Browder, brother of Kalief Browder and from the Campaign to Shut Down Rikers. “What justice would look like to me is passage of the speedy trial bill, and a day to celebrate my youngest brother, Kalief Browder, as a representation of all of those who are tortured and neglected by our failed injustice system. No one should have to suffer the loss that my family has experienced. I ask that the NYS Senate pass the speedy trial bill and relieve the unnecessary detention of thousands of New Yorkers.”
“We know New York’s criminal justice system is broken. New Yorkers who have not been convicted of a crime are being held in jail for months, or even years, simply waiting their day in court. The speedy trial bill is common sense, and last week’s Assembly vote demonstrated a strong level of bipartisan support,” said Melody Lee, Director of Strategy and Campaigns, Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. “New Yorkers deserve a fair and just criminal justice system, not a system that denies them of their basic right to a speedy trial. We need the Senate to act and pass this legislation today and finally fix New York’s speedy trial process.”
“Our criminal justice system is broken. For thousands of New Yorkers, being merely charged with a crime can still result in months or even years spent behind bars waiting for a trial. This is not just unacceptable, it is also unconstitutional,” said Edward Rush, Legislative Director, NY Working Families. “If we are serious about ensuring justice, we must do all in our power to fix this broken system so that backlogs and loopholes don’t force people who have not been convicted of a crime to months or even years of pre-trail detention. We urge the legislature to act urgently and pass the speedy trial bill to ensure fairness and justice for all New Yorkers.”
“My son has been held in jail for almost six years without trial. He has had to suffer through the unthinkable while simply awaiting his day in court,” said Anna, a mother whose son is currently detained on Rikers Island. “The right to a speedy trial is in the Constitution, but it is not being upheld in New York State. The speedy trial bill would help fix this broken system and help put an end to the agony of individuals like my son, who are still awaiting trial so many years later.”
“When New Yorkers are held in jail for months or even years without being convicted of a crime, it goes against the U.S. constitution, violates people’s rights, and wastes resources,” said Helen Schaub, Vice President for Policy at 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “We applaud the NY State Assembly for passing the speedy trial bill, and call on the State Senate to do the same so we can put an end to this ongoing injustice.”
“I spent more than a year at Rikers awaiting trial because I was too poor to make bail,” said Levele Pointer, member of VOCAL-NY. “Everyone has a right to their day in court and it is an embarrassment that 85% of Rikers detainees have yet to be convicted but are still forced to endure such a violent and corrupt place. It’s past time for reform that will dramatically reduce our city’s jail population and passing this speedy trial bill will help us achieve that goal.”
“Kalief’s Law will make important strides toward restoring the right to a speedy trial in New York, which – after years of bait and switch tactics by prosecutors – has been nothing but an empty promise that causes countless New Yorkers to languish in jail and ultimately cost Kalief Browder his life,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“Kalief Browder was one of thousands of prisoners, presumed innocent, but jailed for years at Rikers Island awaiting their trials. Our current “speedy-trial” law perversely enables this state of affairs, where thousands spend extra years in jail due to unrealistic ‘ready for trial’ claims by prosecutors and lengthy “court congestion” delays for which they are in no way responsible,” said Thomas O’Brien, The Legal Aid Society. “Kalief’s Law ties a “ready” declaration to the provision of disclosure to the defense, a realistic mark of true readiness, and provides for release awaiting trial to curtail long-term pretrial confinement due to “court congestion.” Enactment of the reforms in this bill could have a dramatic and positive lasting effect on New York’s criminal justice system.”
“Far too many people languish in jail awaiting trial simply because they cannot afford to pay bail and because the courts lack the resources to provide meaningful and timely due process,” said Scott Levy, Director, Fundamental Fairness Project, Bronx Defenders. “This bill will go a long way toward ending the unnecessary and fundamentally unfair detention of people who are just waiting for their day in court.”