Assemblywoman Kathleen Murray recently announced her support for a three-point criminal law reform package soon to be resubmitted by Gov. George Pataki. The governor plans to resubmit the measures to the Legislature in response to public sentiment following the tragic deaths of four members of one family in Brooklyn on Aug. 4. The victims were allegedly struck by a minivan driven by a New York City policeman, driving while drunk.
"A similar legislative package was blocked in March by Assembly Democrats. If it had passed, it's possible the sweeping criminal law reform it contained would have deterred the officer of the law from choosing to drink and drive," said Murray. "Nothing can bring back the family he killed, but present law must be strengthened to prevent future tragedies," the lawmaker continued.
The proposed three-point plan would:
* Even the scales of justice by extending to the prosecution the right to appeal bail decisions, comparable to those granted to defendants. Federal and most other state prosecutors have this right. It was first proposed in New York in 1997.
* Remove the requirement under current law that prosecutors prove criminal negligence when there is a fatality in a car crash. This legislation was first proposed in 1999.
* Allow for consecutive sentences if more than one person is killed during a single crime. This was first proposed in 1995.
"Much of the public outcry following the Brooklyn accident was caused by a Criminal Court judge's decision to release the police officer in question without bail. Under present law, prosecutors were unable to appeal that bail decision, but it was ultimately reversed by a state Supreme Court justice. As a former assistant attorney general with extensive criminal justice experience, I am acutely aware of the need for the reform Gov. Pataki has proposed," Murray concluded.