By Kaylee Pearlman and Daphne Ho
SACRAMENTO, CA – Senate Bill 97—introduced last week by CA State Senator Scott Wiener (D-SF)—would make the process easier for the wrongfully convicted to prove their innocence and overturn wrongful convictions.
The lawmaker said this measure will consider the prosecutor’s determination that someone has been convicted wrongfully, said Wiener, noting the bill will also ensure the incarcerated will have proper counsel throughout.
Wiener emphasized, in a press statement, the measure will create positive changes in the penal system that will make it more just for all.
The senator maintains putting innocent individuals away is a miscarriage of justice and makes a joke out of the public’s safety. Wiener said those wrongfully convicted are more aware than anyone of how unjust the penal system can be.
This bill, according to Wiener, will “take a step towards making our legal system more just.” Wiener also states this bill will finally relieve these wrongfully convicted individuals so they can finally have peace.
The state of California is the number one state in the nation for exonerations of the wrongfully convicted, said Wiener, and a UC Berkeley study found the state disposed of more than 200 cases of innocent individuals behind bars in the years 1989-2012, costing California taxpayers $144 million in 2013.
Habeas corpus is one of the most important laws because it allows individuals to advocate for themselves if their imprisonment is unlawful, explained Wiener, noting SB 97 demonstrates the commitment to improvement in the system by “making our legal system more just for everyone.”
Wiener argues many California judges believe the protocols surrounding wrongful convictions are difficult to navigate, making the process of exoneration convoluted and resource heavy. As a result, many cases have been extended or delayed, resulting in many “los[ing] years to wasteful and unnecessary litigation,” said Wiener.
The bill has been sponsored by the California Innocence Project, a humanitarian organization that focuses on legal reform and aiding in the release of wrongfully convicted people.
Jasmine Harris, an associate director for the group, argues the bill “will ensure that the wrongfully convicted in California don’t serve a day longer than they have to for crimes they did not commit.”