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Long Island

AG urges Cuomo to sign bill expanding weekend arraignment courts

The state attorney general’s office Friday urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to sign legislation that would expand the availability of weekend arraignment courts in some counties.

The bill would have minimal effect on Long Island and in New York City, where arraignment courts generally are open seven days a week. Some upstate counties, however, do not open courts on Sundays, making it difficult to meet the legal requirement that defendants be brought to court within 24 hours of their arrests.

The letter by Alvin Bragg Jr., executive deputy attorney general for social justice, noted that the legislation arose out of the office’s investigation into the July 2015 death of Raynette Turner in police custody.

Turner was a mother of eight arrested on a shoplifting charge in Mount Vernon, in Westchester County. She died after feeling ill while in custody two days after her arrest. She had not been brought to court.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office investigated Turner’s death. Although the office found no wrongdoing by Mount Vernon police, it made a number of policy recommendations, one of which was increasing the availability of weekend arraignments.

The bill would authorize the state’s chief administrative judge to assign local judges to preside at weekend arraignments. It would also ensure that defendants are represented by an attorney at arraignments, as is their right.

A representative for Cuomo’s office was noncommital on whether the governor would sign the measure, noting it is one of 554 bills Cuomo is considering.

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