October 15, 2007

Calif. governor vetoes three criminal justice reform bills

On Sept. 19, I posted that California could lead the way in criminal justice reform if our governor signed three innovative initiatives then sitting on his desk.

Sadly, the governor caved in to special interest lobbying by police and sheriff's departments, today announcing that he had vetoed all three. The reform measures, and his brief explanations for rejecting them, are:

Senate Bill 511: To require electronic recording of police interrogations in serious felony cases
Governor Schwarzenegger: "While reducing the number of false confessions is a laudable goal … interrogations are dynamic processes that require investigators to use acumen, skill and experience to determine [the best] methods."
Senate Bill 756: To increase the accuracy of eyewitness identifications by appointing a task force to create guidelines for police line-up procedures
Governor Schwarzenegger: "… Law enforcement agencies must have the authority to develop investigative policies and procedures that they can mold to their own unique local conditions and logistical circumstances rather than be restricted to methods created that may make sense from a broad statewide perspective."
Senate Bill 609: To require that testimony from jailhouse informants be independently corroborated before being used as the basis of a criminal conviction
Governor Schwarzenegger: "… When that kind of testimony is necessary, current criminal procedures provide adequate safeguards against its misuse."
In other words, he rejected any additional regulation of law enforcement practices. I guess it was unrealistic to think that an opportunist politician might stand up to the state's most powerful political lobby.

For more disappointed reaction to the vetoes, see "Legal advocates blast Schwarzenegger for vetoing three justice bills," by Brandon Bailey, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 18, 2007.