New York, NY - July 15, 2016 - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today wrote a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to sign legislation that would expand the availability of off-hours arraignment proceedings across New York. New York’s Criminal Procedure Law requires that arrestees be arraigned “without unreasonable delay,” and New York’s Court of Appeals has ruled that delays in excess of 24 hours are presumptively unreasonable and must be explained. However, such delays are not uncommon because, in many parts of the state, courts are not in session on Sunday.
In July, 2015, Raynette Turner died in custody of the Mount Vernon Police Department after awaiting arraignment more than 48 hours. Attorney General Schneiderman’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit investigated Turner’s death, and issued a report of its findings. The report also contains a series of policy recommendations, including expanding the availability of off-hours arraignments, to avoid delays like the one that occurred in the Turner case. The legislation that is before the Governor would adopt that recommendation.
“Expanding off-hours arraignments will help to protect the Constitutional rights of defendants, both by minimizing delays in the arraignment process, and ensuring that defendants can be represented by counsel at arraignment,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This bill will make our criminal justice system fairer and more efficient, and I urge the Governor to sign it into law.”
Joo-Hyun Kang, Director of Communities for Police Reform, said, “The reforms recommended by AG Schneiderman are exactly the type of common sense changes that our state needs to make right away. No one should be forced to sit in a jail cell for days just to get an arraignment. States across the country, from Pennsylvania to Florida, already use video arraignments and other tools to prevent anyone from suffering that type of injustice, and it’s long past time that New York do the same. We commend AG Schneiderman for bringing this issue front and center, and urge Governor Cuomo to sign this important legislation right away.”
The legislation (S.7209-A (Bonacic)/A.10360 (Lentol), which the Legislature passed in June, authorizes the Chief Administrative Judge of the New York Unified Court System to adopt a plan for select local criminal courts to conduct off-hours arraignment proceedings on a rotating basis. The Chief Administrative Judge will periodically assign Judges and Justices of local criminal courts to preside at “off-hours arraignment” parts in select counties.
The Attorney General’s recommendation to the Governor that he sign the bill came in a letter from the Chief of the Attorney General’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit, Alvin Bragg, to the Governor’s Counsel, Alphonso David. The letter is available here. The Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit was created pursuant to Executive Order No. 147, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on July 8, 2015, appointing the Attorney General as a special prosecutor “to investigate, and if warranted, prosecute certain matters involving the death of an unarmed civilian . . . caused by a law enforcement officer.”