Tuesday, Chief Judge of the State of New York Jonathan Lippman presented several proposals to the state Legislature during his annual State of the Judiciary address, including the creation of a new juvenile court to handle cases involving 16-and17-year-olds tried for nonviolent offenses.
Currently, New York is one of only two states in the nation, along with North Carolina, that automatically tries 16-and 17-year-old offenders as adults. According to Judge Lippman, the state’s legislation, “flies in the face of what science tells us about adolescent development.”
Judge Lippman’s proposal would allow judges in adult-offender courts to serve as Family Court judges in cases involving nonviolent 16-and 17-year-olds offenders. Juveniles found guilty in such instances would be subject to Family Court judgments, which generally mete out less harsh adjudications, frequently substituting treatment services for incarceration. Additionally, cases under the arrangement would be sealed, and defendants would not incur a criminal record pending a guilty verdict.
He noted that each year almost 50,000, 16-and 17-year-olds in the state are prosecuted in criminal court, although an overwhelming majority of them are charged with nonviolent offenses
“The goal is to intervene with those kids early, and steer them away,” Judge Lippman said during his address at Albany’s Court of Appeals chamber.
During the address, Judge Lippman also proposed several measures intended to curb wrongful convictions within the state, including videotaped interrogations and greater access to DNA testing for defendants.
“There could be nothing more horrible than an innocent person being convicted of a crime while the perpetrator is free to commit more crimes,” he noted during the assembly. “This is a grand opportunity to put together legislation that really directly impacts what I do believe is a stain on the justice system.”