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NYCLU blasts Brown over his interrogations

TimesLedger Newspapers

The New York Civil Liberties Union has criticized Queens District Attorney Richard Brown for interrogating people accused of crimes before they are arraigned or have consulted a lawyer, saying it is unethical and unconstitutional.

A spokeswoman for the DA’s office said the office declined to comment while the matter was being litigated.

The NYCLU took issue with Brown in a legal brief Tuesday that concerned three cases before the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Department, brought by people who were subjected to questioning before arraignment.

Besides the defendants in these three cases, thousands of people too poor to afford a lawyer have been interrogated by the Queens DA under this program, which has been in operation since 2007, the NYCLU said.

“The district attorney’s program violates constitutional and ethical protections that are designed to ensure fundamental fairness and balance in the criminal justice system,” said Taylor Pendergras, senior staff attorney of the NYCLU. “Any program where legally trained prosecutors intercept unrepresented suspects on their way to court and direct them into an interrogation room is unconstitutional and unethical. The program should be ended immediately.”

A source close to the DA’s office said the program was instituted to ensure that the charges levied against the defendants were correct and that the innocent are never wrongfully accused.

In the interview process, the subject is informed of his or her Miranda rights, the interview does not occur until the subject waives them and no defendant who is represented by an attorney or invokes his or her right to counsel is interviewed, the source said. The interview is video recorded from beginning to end, the source said.

Many choose not to go through the interview process, but others wish to explain their side of the story, the source said. The process has allowed the DA’s office to dismiss scores of cases before they come to court or before charges have been filed and has allowed many suspects to get a reduction in their charges and/or bail recommendation, the source said.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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