André Des Rochers is a lawyer who came up with a solution to the problem of increasing wrongful convictions. This primarily occurs in court cases against defendants of color. His solution was to create a program that had lawyers examine witnesses before they testify to determine whether or not they are credible.
The premise behind the program is simple: If a lawyer knows ahead of time that the witness’s testimony is going to be inconsistent, the lawyer can ask them questions beforehand and see if there are law inconsistencies. André Des Rochers is also working on eliminating what he calls “the prosecutor’s veto” in trial proceedings – basically, when prosecutors prevent certain lines of defense from being used by refusing to hand over evidence or give up their ability to provide rebuttal without giving notice during trials.
The attorney has been working on these projects for the last 15 years. He has created an organization called Witness.org that focuses on reducing wrongful convictions and ending the prosecutor’s veto. He has been working with other organizations and people in the field to promote reform, including Innocence Project, Judges to Innovate, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Currently, André Des Rochers is working on a book called “How America Gets Away With Murder.”
He said that he’s heard from defense lawyers all over the country who tell him they’ve witnessed people being wrongfully convicted. The attorney said it’s important to build a movement behind ending wrongful convictions instead of just relying on lawyers. “I really believe that a movement is not just about law, but it’s actually about people,” André Des Rochers said. “It’s about going out there and gathering the community together.” He said that while many people know they’ve been wrongfully convicted, they don’t know what to do or who to talk to about it.
He also said that no one is listening to the stories of those in the movement. Des Rochers addressed this issue by saying that he’s been working with prominent lawyers and lawyers’ organizations all throughout New York State, who have been taking testimonies from people in prison for a long time about their experiences. André Des Rochers said it’s very gratifying that many of those people are now attorneys themselves. Likewise, he said he’ll be using testimony from other attorneys as well as police officers and other people who have witnessed wrongful convictions, then turning those testimonies into his book.