LOBBY DAY AND PRESS CONFERENCE TO DEMAND PASSAGE OF SPEEDY TRIAL REFORM

**RELEASE FOR MONDAY, JUNE 5, 2017**

KERRY KENNEDY AND ADVOCATES HOST LOBBY DAY AND PRESS CONFERENCE TO DEMAND PASSAGE

OF SPEEDY TRIAL REFORM

STALLING OF BILL LEAVES THOUSANDS OF NEW YORKERS WITHOUT A RIGHT TO A SPEEDY TRIAL

SENATE AND GOVERNOR CUOMO MUST ACT AND PASS S-1998A TO IMPROVE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF

NEW YORK’S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO A SPEEDY

TRIAL

Albany, New York – On Monday, June 5th, Kerry Kennedy joined the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and

Justice, JustLeadershipUSA, VOCAL-NY, New York Working Families Organization, New York Civil

Liberties Union, along with dozens of community members, organizations, and public defenders for a

press conference and advocacy day demanding legislators support speedy trial reform.

Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, an international organization committed

to fighting for a just and peaceful world, stood alongside dozens of individuals who have experienced

speedy trial issues who called for action on the bill by the Senate Codes Committee and by Governor

Cuomo. Kalief’s Law, sponsored by Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblymember Aubry, passed in the

Assembly unanimously earlier this year, it has received strong bipartisan support, having passed the

Assembly twice, most recently unanimously 130-0.

 

“Kalief’s Law” would fix New York’s speedy trial statute by improving the effectiveness of New York’s

criminal justice system and ensuring that people are not unjustly and unnecessarily held in pre-trial

detention. Many individuals who have not yet been convicted of a crime are being held for months, if

not years, simply because our speedy trial law in New York is broken.

 

The bill is named after Kalief Browder, who spent three years detained on Rikers Island with a charge for

which he was never tried or convicted, including more than 700 days in solitary confinement. His case

was ultimately dismissed. Kalief fought to recover his life, but the traumatic experience had taken its

toll. He committed suicide in 2015 at the age of 22, a final and permanent indictment of New York’s

“speedy trial” statute. Kalief is just one of many people who has experienced the injustice of New York’s

broken speedy trial law.

 

With only a few weeks remaining in the legislative session, there is growing, bipartisan consensus that

New York’s speedy trial system is broken and that the Legislature must act to pass needed reforms

before it concludes.

 

Even in the Senate, there is recognition that New York’s current speedy trial system is broken: while the

Senate Majority has stalled on passage of Kalief’s Law, a more limited reform measure that relates to

the timely scheduling of criminal trials was introduced in the Senate by members of the Democrats

(Squadron), IDC (Savino), and Republicans (Lanza).

 

Kalief’s Law is currently awaiting action by the Senate Codes Committee chaired by Senator Lanza.

Governor Cuomo has also yet to come forward to support the bill. The continued stalling in the Senate

and the absence of the Governor’s leadership in supporting Kalief’s Law means that thousands of New

Yorkers will continue to suffer from the injustice of a broken speedy trial system.

 

"Justice delayed is justice denied. New York’s speedy trial system is broken forcing thousands to languish

in dangerous jails while tax payers are charged exorbitant fees for bureaucratic incompetence. The

Assembly unanimously passed Kalief's Law -- it's time for the Senate to act and send this law to the

Governor for his signature. New York must stop detaining so many people pretrial, and instead be a

beacon for justice," said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

 

"Standing up for rights guaranteed by our Constitution shouldn't be controversial -- it's time to fix our

speedy trial crisis," said State Senator Daniel Squadron. "Thank you to Assemblymember Aubry, Katal,

JLUSA, Working Families, Legal Aid, VOCAL, the Browder family, and the many advocates, organizations,

and impacted New Yorkers calling to fix the system.”

 

“I truly hope my Senate colleagues will step up to the plate and vote Kalief’s law out of the Senate Codes

Committee,” said Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry. “This isn’t a partisan issue. We’ve passed this bill twice in the

Assembly – and we passed it unanimously. The entire criminal justice system tragically failed 16-year old

Kalief Browder, who spent three years in Rikers Island awaiting trial – we must not fail him again.”

 

“Every possible step must be taken to reduce unnecessary court delays, end unnecessary pretrial

detention, and ensure the Constitutional Rights of New Yorkers are protected, said Melody Lee, Director

of Strategy & Campaigns at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. “Kalief’s Law is the

comprehensive, common sense reform New York needs and we need the Senate and the Governor to

act NOW, we cannot allow for another year to pass. The Legislature must act swiftly - New Yorkers

deserve to have their constitutional right to a speedy trial upheld, they deserve to be treated with

respect and dignity!”

 

"By failing to act quickly on passing Kalief's Law, New York State is denying thousands of people their

Constitutional right to a speedy trial," said Glenn E. Martin, President and Founder of

JustLeadershipUSA. "It is an affront to the values of fairness and equity that New Yorkers expect from

their criminal justice system. Across the state, people languish in jail for months or even years waiting

for their day in court, undermining the presumption of innocence that is supposed to be a central value

of our criminal justice system. New York should be leading the country in developing innovative criminal

justice strategies, but instead it is failing to fix its own broken court system. JustLeadershipUSA calls on

the Governor to take action to ensure that Kalief's Law is passed and urges the Senate to join the

Assembly in their support of the bill and pass it immediately."

 

"As we speak, thousands of New Yorkers are sitting in jail, unable to afford bail, awaiting trials that may

never come. This constitutional crisis is in plain sight, and so is the solution,” said Scott Levy, Special

Counsel to the Criminal Practice at The Bronx Defenders. “We call on the Codes Committee to vote on

Kalief’s Law and advance it to the Senate without further delay. It is long past time to fix New York's

broken speedy trial law and ensure that all New Yorkers have meaningful access to justice.”

 

"Speedy trial is a cornerstone to due process and a fair trial," said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of

the Criminal Practice at The Legal Aid Society. "To help prevent against tragedies experienced by

Kalief Browder from happening, New York needs to enact bold reform into law this session. This bill is a

start on the road to full speedy trial reform."

 

“Justice delayed is justice denied," said Andrea Nieves, Attorney in the Policy and Advocacy Unit of

Brooklyn Defender Services. "Kalief’s Law provides an important and cost-effective way to limit how

long defendants are detained on Rikers Island, provides defendants and victims with faster resolution,

and promotes justice for all.”

 

“Kalief’s Law will make important strides toward restoring the right to a speedy trial in New York, which

has been nothing but an empty promise that causes countless New Yorkers to languish in jail and

ultimately costed Kalief Browder his life,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York

Civil Liberties Union.

 

“People in New York are guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around like it's supposed to be,”

said Robert Suarez, VOCAL-NY community leader and Co-Chair of the Peer Network of New York. “The

system is broken. And once again it is people of color and poor people who are the victims of this failed

justice system.”

 

"Ensuring that New York is able to afford every individual charged with a crime the right to a speedy

trial, should be of paramount importance to all elected officials,” said Edward Rush NY State Legislative

Director the Working Families Organization. “Unfortunately, this is yet another example of how a

handful of elected Democrats who make up the IDC have been able to keep New Yorkers from getting

the kind of progressive that they deserve, while aligning themselves with senate Republicans for their

own financial and political gain."

 

“The Bronx Freedom Fund calls on the New York State Senate to uphold the Constitution and honor the

memory of Kalief Browder by enacting speedy trial reform,” said Elena Weissman, Director of Bronx

Operations at the Bronx Freedom Fund. “Through our work in one of the most backlogged courts in the

nation, we see individuals miss countless days of work, school, and childcare obligations, only to have

their cases adjourned for months and even years by a system that is closer to punishment than it is to

due process. Thousands of others are forced to await their trials behind bars, in on bail they cannot

afford. For these individuals and their communities, extensive court delays compound the destructive

forces of incarceration. They also present enormous costs to taxpayers, and ultimately bring us no closer

to just case outcomes. The tragedy suffered by Kalief Browder and his loved ones is emblematic of the

nightmare facing the thousands of New Yorkers languishing behind bars simply for being poor. Speedy

trial reform is not just a logistical necessity: it is a moral imperative, and we stand with our partners in

pushing towards a fairer and leaner system today.”

 

“Without speedy trial, the prosecutors have a windfall advantage making the judicial process a sham,”

said Mallah Divine Mallah, member at the Katal Center for Health Equity and Justice. “You're innocent

until proven guilty but that's not the reality in New York. What happened to Kalief Browder should have

never happened and to make sure that this never happens again, electeds must support speedy trial

reform."

 

"We are calling for Albany policymakers to be RADICAL, by tackling an issue that deprives all New

Yorkers of their constitutional right to a speedy trial," said Samantha Johnson, a member of

JustLeadershipUSA. "We all know Kalief Browder's story, yet there are thousands of other people who

are facing speedy trial issues across New York state. New York State elected officials, this is not the time

to turn a blind eye to suffering. Thousands of New Yorkers are depending upon you. We demand you fix

Speedy Trial! Governor Cuomo, the time is now - FIX SPEEDY TRIAL."

 

"Too many people are falling through the loopholes of our justice system because of a broken speedy

trial rule,” said Aaron C. Hinton, Founder of DUECES. “The longer they stay in jail the more likely they

are to adopt that prison mindset. Let's pass this bill to assure that every NY resident obtains their right

to a speedy trial. We have lost more than enough to this travesty of injustice. We are here today to tell

our legislators to vote ‘yes’ on the speedy trial bill AKA Kalief Browder’s Law.”

 

“At the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, we see firsthand how bail imprisons people simply for being

poor and coerces guilty pleas,” said Peter Goldberg, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Community Bail

Fund. “This injustice is exacerbated by New York’s failure to ensure speedy trial. The inability to afford

bail sends innocent people to Rikers; without a real guarantee of a speedy trial, as required by the 6th

Amendment, they may stay in jail for months or even years. We urge the Legislature to pass Kalief’s Law

and to immediately move forward with legislation that eliminates money bail.”

 

"The justice system is broken and it’s not going to be fixed quickly without speedy trial reform,” said

Audwin Caines, member of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice. “I know this because I

spent four years on Rikers until I felt bullied into taking a deal. This experience changed my life, because

after learning there is no justice in the justice system I had to learn to keep my guard up."

 

“The Five Borough Defenders, an organization of NYC public defenders, civil rights attorneys and

advocates, ardently support speedy trial reform to address the vast chasm between New York’s lax

requirements for prosecutors to be ready for trial and the constitutional protections promised by the

right to a speedy trial,” said Sarah Evans-DeVita of the Five Borough Defenders. “Kalief Browder’s story

is just one of too many examples of individuals caught in the time warp of the criminal justice

system. The current system places the burden of court congestion, high prosecutor caseloads, and the

failure to produce complete discovery on our clients, who are forced to appear over and over in court,

many languishing in jail for years, presumed innocent. Today, we join with advocates across the state to

lobby for this much needed reform. It is imperative to take time away from fighting these battles in

court to share our experiences and those of our clients, amplifying their stories in this call for change.”

 

"In New York State, we unjustly incarcerate thousands of individuals who have not yet been convicted of

a crime for months and even years while they await their day in court,” said William Evans, Founder and

President of Neighborhood Benches and a member of JustLeadershipUSA. “This results in inhumane

suffering, loss of jobs, housing, family and more. It also costs taxpayers millions of dollars. I know firsthand

the destruction that pretrial incarceration causes to people’s lives. Our speedy trial law is broken

and it MUST be repaired. I urge the NYS Senate to act NOW, and pass comprehensive speedy trial

reform, Kalief’s Law."

 

"New York the only state that doesn't grant its residents the right to a speedy trial as mandated by the

U.S. constitution,” said Rabbi Gabriel Ben Yehuda, a member of the Katal Center for Health, Equity,

and Justice. “Before Raise the Age got passed New York was the only state besides North Carolina

whose criminal justice system treated its children like adults. We are supposed to be a progressive state

but we are still playing catch up with the rest of the country when it comes to what is right. It's time for

us to pass speedy trial now.”

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