Pennsylvania’s Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions

Created in 2006 by the legislature to explore the causes of wrongful conviction and initiated by Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery/Bucks), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions was charged with reviewing Pennsylvania’s wrongful conviction cases and identifying the causes and remedies of wrongful conviction.  Last fall, the Committee issued a report calling for comprehensive updates to our criminal justice system to prevent the tragedy of wrongfully convicting innocent people.   Download the full report.  The day the report was released, 14 members of the 52-member body issued an Independent Report, calling the measures proposed by the Committee “roadblocks to justice … designed solely to benefit criminal defendants.”

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which was not part of the Advisory Committee process, issued a White Paper addressing the proposals from the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions report and the objections raised by minority dissenters.

The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which was not part of the Advisory Committee process, supports most of the Advisory Committee’s recommendations. However, in some areas, further reforms are necessary to ensure fair proceedings and to protect against wrongful convictions. Toward that end, the Project suggests additional proposals, as outlined in the White Paper.

Since the Report’s publication, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project has been working directly with law enforcement agencies to encourage the adoption of best practices in eyewitness identification procedures and recording of suspect interrogations.  While we firmly believe that voluntary adoption of these proposals by law enforcement is by far the best avenue for reform, there are other reforms which can only be accomplished through legislation such as compensating the wrongfully convicted and requiring accreditation of forensic science laboratories.

The recommendations in the Advisory Committee’s report have now been introduced as legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee, backed by Chairman Stewart Greenleaf.  Those bills, SB 1337 and SB 1338, are before  the Senate Judiciary Committee awaiting public hearings.

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