Dear Governor Kathy Hochul,
While calls to address public safety concerns in New York have increased during what can only be described as a mental health crisis, the appropriate policy solution is proper funding of community-based mental and behavioral health care services, not rolling back the discovery rules that enable the accused to fulfill their constitutional due process rights, including the right to present an adequate defense.
The New York State’s discovery rules proposed in your office’s “10 Point Plan” for consideration in the FY23 budget undermines the 2019 discovery law which was developed through an extensive and deliberative multi-year process that included impacted people, community groups, legal organizations and stakeholders from all corners of the criminal legal community. The 2019 law reformed draconian discovery rules which had been the law of the land for nearly a half century in New York, a law which had been ranked fourth from the bottom in the United States. The well-informed decision to repeal the Blindfold Law at long last brought New York in line with conservative states like Texas and North Carolina.
As budget negotiations unfold, we ask that you honor the following principles and priorities:
- Speedy trial tied to turning over discovery.
- Police and prosecution must be accountable for discovery compliance.
Rather than scaling back these transformational pretrial reforms, invest in community-based mental healthcare, mobile crisis units, and other supports for people who have mental health needs, as well as electronic discovery technology to implement the law properly. Resources like these are what would make all of us safer. Facts and not fear must dictate policymaking. To do otherwise would be to ignore the data at the expense of countless New Yorkers.