Family members rallied at City Hall Thursday to demand justice for inmates that they feel are innocent and haven’t been given fair treatment. NY1’s Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Dozens of family members stood on the steps of City Hall Thursday, shouting the names of related prisoners that they say have been locked up for no reason.
"I know he is innocent, and that's what hurts," said Louis Holmes, father of a current inmate.
Family members and activists say Albany leaders need to form what they called an "Innocence Commission," a panel with subpoena powers to investigate the cases of inmates who claim they're not guilty and should be set free.
"People ask me, ‘how do you know these men are innocent?’ It is very easy,” said Lonnie Soury of FalseConfessions.org. “Spend five minutes looking at their cases, and right away you know something terrible has happened, and it is a terrible injustice."
They say there are problems with testing DNA, false confessions and coerced witness testimonies that lead to innocent people ending up behind bars.
Richard Rosario has been in prison for 15 years for a murder his family says he didn't commit.
"Richard had seven alibi witnesses that were ready to come into trial, but his lawyer failed to call them up," said Maria Maldonado, Rosario’s sister.
State Senator Michael Gianaris has been pushing legislation to help the innocent.
"New York is unfortunately trailing the country in terms of doing what is necessary to prevent wrongful convictions, so we would benefit specifically from setting this commission up as soon as possible," said Gianaris.
Two years ago, the state’s chief judge actually set up a task force to study wrongful convictions, but that task force only looks at old cases that have already been overturned.
Alan Newton knows the frustration of being locked up for something he didn't do. He spent 22 years in prison and was only released after DNA cleared him of Rape.
"Nobody really cares about your innocence while you are locked up, because everyone in there is convicted, so you have to do your best to survive," said Newton.
NY1 reached out to district attorneys about this situation. The Manhattan district attorney's office points out that it has a conviction integrity program to address claims of innocence, but inmates' families say those claims are hard to prove if they can't afford a good lawyer.