June 1, 2007

Roy Brown was one of three wrongfully convicted men exonerated due to DNA testing who testified before the state Assembly on Wednesday about proposed criminal justice reforms to prevent further wrongful convictions.

Brown was exonerated in March of the 1991 murder of Sabina Kulakowski after spending 15 years behind bars. He received a liver transplant 2.5 weeks ago.

Brown submitted oral testimony but not written testimony to the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes and the Assembly Standing Committee on Correction.

He reignited his criticism that his wrongful murder conviction was an “abortion of justice,” said Rebecca Brown, a political analyst at the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic that represented Roy in his fight to get tests. court-sanctioned DNA.

Rebecca attended the hearing at which Roy spoke.

Roy described sometimes not having lawyers during his appeals and relying on law libraries and other inmates to argue his case, Rebecca said.

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Roy spoke out against a state Senate proposal to limit the filing of any new appeals based on new information to one year after initial appeals for a conviction are exhausted, Rebecca said.

Such a law could create more Roy Browns, said Innocence Project policy director Stephen Saloom. It took Roy Brown 11 years to find the information that led to his DNA testing after his conviction, Saloom said.

In addition to Brown, Peter Neufeld, co-director of the project, Alan Newton and Doug Warney testified.

Newton, of New York, served 21 years for a wrongful rape conviction.

Warney, of Rochester, served nine years for a wrongful murder conviction.

The Innocence Project said the reforms proposed by the Assembly are more likely to prevent wrongful convictions than similar, but less extensive, reforms passed by the state Senate and introduced by Governor Eliot Spitzer earlier in May. .

The draft cited reforms such as the Assembly seeking to establish statewide rules for the preservation of evidence, while the Senate sought only voluntary guidelines.

The Assembly calls for crime scene evidence to be analyzed in DNA databases and fingerprint databases, but the Senate proposal only calls for a comparison of DNA databases. The Assembly calls for police interrogations to be recorded, but the Senate does not address the issue.

Brown filed a $5 million claim in the State Court of Claims seeking damages for his wrongful imprisonment and wrongful conviction.

Sensitive DNA testing of a shirt Kulakowski allegedly wore the night she was killed pointed to another suspect, now deceased, Barry Bench, and ruled out Brown as her attacker. The case is being investigated again by the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office.

— Compiled by David Wilcox


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