Reforms help prevent? wrongful convictions

The sentiments expressed by Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita in his Aug. 26 article "Wrongful acquittals are far more common than wrongful convictions" are common among prosecutors and some law enforcement officials who are concerned about the change that comes with improving the reliability of evidence. But that resistance has consistently melted away once police and prosecutors see that these simple reforms make their cases stronger and help ensure that the right person is caught and prosecuted.

By reviewing the nation's 297 DNA exonerations, we have been able to learn exactly where the system fails. Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction, contributing to nearly 75 percent of the cases later overturned by DNA evidence.

False confessions played a role in more than 25 percent, and more than 40 percent of New York's DNA exonerations. More than thirty years of scientific research on memory and identification has taught us how to make lineups more reliable by minimizing the factors proven to lead to misidentifications. By requiring police to record interrogations, we are given a full record of the interrogation process so that juries can judge for themselves whether a statement was voluntarily given or the result of psychological coercion and/or exhaustion.

These simple reforms, which have been embraced by police departments across the nation, protect everyone – except the real perpetrators of crime. They provide law enforcement with more accurate evidence, strengthen prosecutors' cases, and ensure the integrity of criminal convictions. In short, they better protect the public and the innocent.

By adopting these reforms, New York can go from being a leader in wrongful convictions to a leader in preventing them.

Stephen Saloom

Policy director, Innocence Project


Distinguished educator ?has landed a great gig

Let me get this straight. The Buffalo Board of Education is bringing in an "expert teacher" to straighten out the school system at a salary of $190 per hour, and $250 for daily expenses and travel when we have more school administrators per square foot than pizza joints in Western New York.

How does this happen when Buffalo State College and the University at Buffalo send people all over the world to instruct countries regarding the most popular book learning technologies on the planet?

Even the high school administrators of my hometown of Clarence send folks to China to give them a dose of American pedagogy. With hundreds of professors emeritus of this and doctors of that in Western New York, we don't have somebody abler and in a closer zip code than this lady from Florida?

The best part is that she is only required to be here twenty days until the end of the calendar year. That is less than three weeks to prescribe the fix. It will easily take her that long just to schedule the meetings and to find out who is telling the truth.

Next year when her recommendations have to be followed will be the real test. That is when the eyeball to eyeball conversations takes place and things get hot. At that time she will be back in Florida with Buffalo a far distant memory. She is truly one smart lady.

Joe Weiss, Ph.D



Undecided voters should? scrutinize Republican agenda

If you're an undecided moderate or independent voter, please consider a few things, including what kind of DNA threads through extreme Republicans, making them detest our somehow "different" president and repeatedly question his birth place.

How about the way they disdain innocent children of immigrants, or are indifferent to millions with no health insurance. They are contemptuous of the jobless needing assistance or food stamps and unconvinced that breathable air, healthy food, drilling our pristine wilderness and mine safety require government oversight.

Or, consider how Republicans seem unaware that anyone drawing a paycheck invests in Social Security and Medicare, earning benefits they now or will some time in the future need.

Why do their candidates want popular programs eliminated, vouchered away or left to the "supervision" of insurance companies or Wall Street? Please explain the Republican thought process suggesting that same-sex couples remotely affect anyone else's quality of life, or that women are second-class citizens whose privacy must be intruded upon by male-dominated legislative bodies.

Why, in nearly every instance of state control, are Republicans moving to suppress the vote? Mitt Romney's plans, like his tax returns, are secret.

Achieving a stable society takes effort. But a party shouting no to bipartisanship, no to compromise, no to tax fairness, no to jobs bills, no to health care, no to science or public education, no to women, no to renewable energy and no to impartial voting bears the lion's share of responsibility for a battered economy, poor quality of life and lost freedom.

Leonard Gross

East Amherst


Democrats better deserve? a chance at solving problems

What, after all, are the platforms of our political parties offering you and your families?

Republicans propose that you only be eligible for Social Security when you reach age 67 or 68 and that you will be hunting around with a voucher for an HMO that will not oust you if you come down with a serious condition or limit your coverage. Their plan does nothing to contain health costs. As long as you're already receiving Social Security, not to worry, but your kids and grandkids will be responsible for saving for their retirements.

Republicans keep talking about deregulation. What does that mean? Putting aside environmental protections that could slow our rapidly deteriorating climate? Or does it mean foregoing restrictions on financial entities so that we can relive the meltdown again and bail them out?

What have they said about the war in Afghanistan and plans for Iran? How have they said they would help voters pay for or reduce the high cost of education?

They seem to want smaller government but more influence for religious institutions with which you may or may not agree. And when the federal government has less, states have to take up the slack. Businesses will go to states with lower taxes, therefore making education, libraries, infrastructure and more suffer and be weakened.

Their biggest aim, they say, is to reduce the deficit and balance the budget. Do you realize that the last Republican president to do so was Eisenhower? Since then only two presidents have had a balanced budget: Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton. And Republicans want to eliminate capital gains taxes and keep the low rates on income of George H.W. Bush.

Don't think for a moment that Democrats are adequately addressing every issue well, but it sure beats what Republicans are offering.

Sharon Schneider