New York is a state with a large and complex legal system. That system is far from perfect, and one of the biggest issues is the fact that historically, defendants often did not get access to all the evidence against them.
The Blindfold Law
The so-called blindfold law was a set of rules that, for most of the history of the state, prevented defendants from being able to know what evidence the state was using against them when they were charged with a crime. This created a very unfair legal environment, because many defendants were forced to plead guilty to crimes they had never committed out of fear of the unknown outcome a trial would bring. This created many false convictions. Eventually, the state passed a reform package that altered the rules for discovery in a way that would force the state to present all of their evidence to the defense.
However, recently, lawmakers have begun passing new rules that weaken the reforms and lower the burden on the prosecution to provide that evidence in discovery. This can once again put defendants in an impossible position, trying to decide whether or not to plead guilty without being able to see what the state is using to charge them. There is way to mount an effective defense without that much information about the evidence.
It is critical that Albany politicians preserve the defense’s rights to access the evidence that is used in their charges. The dark times of the blindfold laws are not an appropriate way to structure a legal system or carry out criminal justice for New Yorkers.