Dec. 26, 2019 By Kristen Torres
Queens District Attorney-Elect Melinda Katz announced new criminal justice reforms to begin when she takes office next month.
The DA-elect plans to introduce new plea deal policies for cases beginning Jan. 1, 2020, according to a release sent by her transition team on Tuesday.
Current procedure gives criminal defendants the right to have a grand jury hear their case within five days of their arrest.
But under current Queens DA policy, only those who choose to waive that right are given the option to enter plea deals with prosecutors.
“The DA’s staff will at all times be open to discussions aimed at resolving cases and will not withhold plea deals from persons who choose to exercise this right,” Katz said in a statement.
Katz’s team also said the existing policy of refusing to engage in plea deal discussions with defendants who’ve been indicted by a grand jury will also be scrapped.
Juries currently need “reasonable cause to believe” that a person has committed a crime in order to indict him or her. Katz said that standard for indictment is too low.
“Based on such low standard of evidence, the rigid refusal to consider options other than a ‘top count’ guilty plea or trial is inconsistent with DA Elect Katz’s commitment to an open minded approach to case resolution,” the statement said.
Katz was elected as the Queens District Attorney in November, after a hard-fought primary against Democratic Socialist Tiffany Caban.