By Kevin Deutsch
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark on Thursday said her office needs millions of dollars in additional funding to enact criminal justice reform laws slated to take effect next year.
“No matter how willing we are to carry out these reforms, we will not be able to do it without additional resources,” Clark told the City Council’s Committee on the Justice System during testimony at City Hall.
In prepared remarks, Clark laid out a laundry list of changes she said would require more money from city coffers. Among them: the hiring of 10 new DA investigators to protect cooperating witnesses, at a cost of $610,000; 25 new Trial Preparation Assistants to help redact discovery documents and video footage; and replacement of her office’s “antiquated” case management system, for which Clark is seeking $2.65 million to purchase and maintain.
Clark said buying the new technology has become more vital, “specifically because, according to the new law, all discovery must be provided within 15 calendar days of arraignments.”
The state of the art system, Clark said, “will allow us to accurately track cases and individuals.”
“Currently, we have no way to file electronic discovery and our storage and email systems are overwhelmed.”
Clark, who created a program that relocates endangered witnesses in the Bronx, said she was particularly concerned about reforms in the new law that will “allow the defendant to learn the identities of witnesses and where they work and live.”
Disclosing specific details about witnesses—details prosecutors can keep from defense attorneys and their clients under current law—will “mean we will seek protective orders in many more cases than we currently do,” Clark said, referring to the orders judges can issue to keep witness details under wraps.
“This will result in more hearings and significantly more man hours redacting documents and video,” Clark said.
During Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez’s testimony before the committee, he proposed a solution to the witness safety issue: an online system through which defense attorneys can communicate with prosecution witnesses, without any personal information being publicly shared.
“The technology is currently available and could be used by all DAs offices in the city,” Gonzalez said. “But resources are needed to create and maintain that system.”
De Blasio administration officials said they were assessing the various financial needs of the city DA’s, but have not provided details about additional funding.