Following Friday’s Exoneration of Two Innocent Men, Sen. Pennacchio Calls for Action on His Bipartisan Bill to Reduce Wrongful Convictions of NJ
Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26) today called on Legislative leaders to immediately post his bipartisan bill creating the “New Jersey Innocence Study and Review Commission” for a committee hearing.
Pennacchio is calling for action in light of Friday’s news that Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee, two innocent men who have spent the past 24 years seeking exoneration, have been freed from prison.
Sen. Joe Pennacchio (at the podium), NAACP NJ President Richard Smith, Lesley Risinger, Founder of The Last Resort Exoneration Project; and AJ Nash, a wrongfully convicted and exonerated man, speak at an Oct. 5, 2017 press conference on Pennacchio’s bill to reduce wrongful convictions in New Jersey. (SenateNJ.com)
“Ralph Lee and Eric Kelley’s case proves that our criminal justice system is in need of reform. No one should have to wait 24 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit,” Senator Pennacchio said. “Although I am relieved to see the outcome in their case, the reality is that our work is far from over. There is no telling how many innocent people could be languishing behind bars at this very moment.
“Six months ago, I stood shoulder to shoulder with people who were wrongfully convicted, pleading with the leaders of this Legislature to stand up for justice,” Senator Pennacchio said. “I had hoped that the words of AJ Nash – who plainly said that had my commission existed, he wouldn’t have spent so much time locked away in prison – would move this body to act. Why the delay?
“I strongly believe that my bipartisan legislation will help us find the answers we need to reduce wrongful convictions in New Jersey. We cannot keep waiting for the cases to pile up. The time for action is now.”
In October, Senator Pennacchio held a press conference with people who were wrongfully convicted, exoneration advocates, and the NAACP to call for action on his legislation, S-406, which would establish the “New Jersey Innocence Study and Review Commission.” The commission would be charged with developing reforms to prevent wrongful convictions statewide.
Under the bill, the commission must also make a specific recommendation for establishing a permanent panel before which a person who believes they have been the victim of a wrongful conviction could request a review of their own conviction, including those that are currently incarcerated. S-406 is still pending a committee hearing.
To learn more about Senator Pennacchio’s bill, those who support it, and those whose lives would be changed for the better by this legislation, click here.
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