Election Briefs

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Cyrus Vance, Jr. finally received a public endorsement from his old boss, retiring District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Manhattan’s 89-year-old, nine-term top prosecutor had long preferred Vance as his successor but had withheld a public endorsement until last week.

Vance’s campaign has also brought Caroline Kennedy out of political sabbatical for the first time since the controversy over her Senate appointment. She spoke of her support for Vance as the special guest at a June 23 campaign cocktail reception. Other recent additions to Vance’s list of supporters include former State Comptroller H. Carl McCall and Teamsters Local 237.

Vance unveiled a plan to create a mental health unit for the district attorney’s office, which would consist of a group of specialized prosecutors and mental health professionals working in conjunction with a mental health court.

Citing the increase in inmates in the state who suffer from serious mental illnesses, Vance argued that such an office could successfully treat patients in lieu of incarcerating them.

“It is the fair and just thing to do because many of these crimes would not have been committed in the first place had the defendant been receiving treatment,” Vance said.

Vance also detailed a plan to prevent and rectify wrongful convictions at a June 27 event at City Hall for the National Freedom March for the Wrongfully Convicted.

If elected district attorney, Vance promised to create a conviction integrity panel consisting of appellate and trial lawyers to examine allegations of wrongful convictions.

Richard Aborn, who led a task force on wrongful convictions as a member of the New York State Bar Association, also attended the June 27 march and was the keynote speaker.

“As D.A., I will take steps we can all agree on to reduce the probability that we incarcerate innocent women and men, and urge the legislature to take further action statewide,” Aborn said.

He waded into Washington policy recently with a letter to a Senate subcommittee chair that advocated for lifting restrictions on legal service providers. The restrictions bar legal service clients from participating in class action lawsuits, and regulate the use of other kinds of public money from the city or state.

Aborn recently reaffirmed his support of Rockefeller Drug Law reforms last month, when several other district attorneys in the state voiced disapproval. The reforms largely place sentencing in the hands of judges, rather than prosecutors from district attorneys offices.

“I joined many in pushing to replace the draconian and racially discriminatory mandatory-minimum sentences of the Rockefeller Drug Laws with judicial discretion to divert non-violent, low-level drug offenders into treatment programs rather than sentencing them to state prison,” Aborn said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Aborn continues to add to his list of endorsements from elected officials and political clubs. He recently garnered support from Council Member Rosie Mendez of the Lower East Side, the Gay & Lesbian Independent Democrats, the Working Families Party and the 504 Democratic Club, a group that advocates on behalf of individuals with disabilities.

Aborn, who helped draft the assault weapons ban and the Brady gun bill, received support from several gun control groups and advocates such as Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of Long Island and former New York and current L.A. Police Commissioner William Bratton.

Leslie Crocker Snyder slammed a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that said inmates do not have a constitutional right to DNA testing, which could prevent or overturn wrongful convictions.

“I have seen first-hand the value of DNA testing and have been witness to the fact that innocent men and women are wrongly convicted,” she said.

Snyder has long promised to open a “Second Look Bureau” in the district attorney’s office to address potential mistakes.

Snyder also stood on the steps of City Hall on June 29 with Morgenthau critic Stanley Patz, a whose son Etan disappeared 30 years ago, to unveil a program to help missing children and families.

Under the plan, the district attorney’s office would collaborate with schools and community groups to create ID kits for children under 14 that would include a current digital photograph, physical characteristics, fingerprints and relevant medical and dental records.

“There is still much more to be done to protect our kids and to prevent these unthinkable tragedies from taking place,” Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder also promised to present evidence against the man long suspected of kidnapping and murdering Etan Patz to a grand jury.

Snyder continues to receive endorsements from unions, including the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

Former Mayor Ed Koch weighed in on the district attorney’s race by endorsing Snyder, whom he called an “extraordinary judge with uncommon intellect, integrity and courage” on the jacket of her memoir, 25 to Life.

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