Penalty box for these Islanders’ fans
I wish to apologize to hockey player John Tavares and his family on behalf of New York Islanders fans who went along with the vulgar display of ingratitude for his nine years of devotion to both community and team [“We don’t need you!,” Sports, March 1].
If Thursday night’s game had been a fight, Islanders fans who threw figurative haymakers would deserve to be suspended for 10 games. The NHL Network did us a favor by not running the sound of the game’s lowlights.
We should be embarrassed as a community for the poor treatment accorded Tavares, a leader who was only doing right by himself and his family by moving on from the Islanders to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was team management that failed us. The Islanders should have traded Tavares when he didn’t sign at the trade deadline.
Wouldn’t it be great if fans turn out on April 1, Tavares’ next Coliseum game, to show we regret the behavior exhibited on Thursday?
Dire need to reform criminal justice rules
I read with dismay about prosecutors’ efforts to derail pending criminal justice reforms, including discovery [“Criminal justice revamp,” News, Feb. 24].
As an attorney who has practiced criminal defense for nearly 45 years, I have seen the devastating impact New York’s antiquated criminal discovery laws have on the fairness of the criminal justice system. In civil cases involving money, attorneys receive detailed information about the opponent’s case to help them give informed advice to clients. However, in criminal cases, when a conviction can result in decades of imprisonment, critical information such as witness statements necessary for preparation of a defense is provided only immediately before trial. This lack of information hampers attorney efforts to investigate, and innocent clients are often wrongfully convicted because the defense attorney has been blindfolded by New York’s lack of disclosure.
Prosecutors say turning over discovery materials within 15 days of an arraignment is unrealistic. Perhaps it is inconvenient, but many other jurisdictions have modified discovery laws to promote fairness and require the sharing of information within a comparable period. Inconvenience should not be an excuse for denying access to information to attorneys of defendants. It is time for New York to revise its discovery laws to promote fairness.
Brooklyn and Sag Harbor
Editor’s note: The writer is former attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society of New York and former president of the New York State Bar Association.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas’ comments about criminal justice reforms proposed in Albany are tone deaf and out of touch with reality. She urges everyone to “slow down” the advancement of much-needed and overdue reforms central to fairness and justice — for bail, discovery and speedy trials. But Singas ignores the fact that problematic existing laws have been around for decades and harmed thousands of New Yorkers. Further, her claim that the new proposals were written by lawyers who have never practiced criminal law is mystifying.
As the presidents of two statewide criminal defense bar associations composed of private counsel and public defenders, we will happily clarify for Singas. All of the proposals under consideration have been vetted by legal scholars, current and former practitioners, and members of the judiciary. Many proposals followed years of thoughtful work by task forces and committees. To suggest they were created in haste or by novices is misguided and insulting.
These reforms were introduced last year in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive budget. His office has discussed them at length with prosecutors and the defense bar. Both sides have been given time to comment on specifics.
What we support will not advantage or disadvantage prosecutors or defenders. The reforms balance the law enforcement perspective with greater protections of due process, fairness, and efforts to avoid wrongful prosecutions and convictions.
Tina Luongo and Lori Cohen,
Editor’s note: Luongo is president of the Chief Defenders Association of New York. Cohen is president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
All for enforcing existing gun laws
I was pleasantly surprised to read your common-sense editorial “Existing gun laws can stop violence” [Feb. 21]. Your points were spot on. We need to demand that law enforcement agencies at all levels do their jobs and enforce all existing guns laws.
I believe that adding more laws that either won’t be followed by criminals, or which go unenforced, would be a waste of time so some politicians could think they’ve done something to address gun violence, when they’ve done nothing.
In each of the cases you cite, when laws were not enforced and killings ensued, there should be full investigations into how law enforcement failed. If heads need to roll, so be it.
Editor’s note: The writer is a member of the National Rifle Association.