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Erie County DA's office spends $5 million, hires 25 more people to speed up turning over evidence

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn
Mike Desmond
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn speaks to WBFO in his office.

Changes in state law can be expensive.

Albany has made major changes to New York's criminal justice law, like not requiring cash bail in most cases. Another change involved speeding up sending evidence from prosecutors to defense lawyer, generally requiring it to happen within 15 days.

That’s very fast in the criminal justice system. For Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, it meant he has now hired an additional 25 people to process evidence.

He says it’s not cheap.

“From the state, $3.7 million dollars for discovery," he said. "We the county have spent about $5.3 million, not yet, but through 2022. So, on Dec. 31 of this year, the county will have spent $5.3 million on discovery.”

Albany is promising $100 million for discovery to counties but there’s no sign of the checks.

Flynn, who is president-elect of the District Attorneys Association of New York State, said other counties don’t have that county help.

“The smaller counties did not have that luxury and they are hurting greatly," he said. "That's why this $20 million is going to be so helpful to them where they can now hire people. I was able to hire people and the county basically upfronted the cost for me. But now we're able to pay them back.”

Flynn says the speed and cost of discovery has forced some big changes in how his office operates.

“If we get the case in, assess the case right away, are able to come to a resolution in the first arraignment date or a week later, then that relieves us of our discovery, now that the case is over," he said. "So, we're moving cases and getting them out the door a lot more quicker now.”

Another change in Flynn’s office is that some assistant DA’s will have to start sharing offices to make way for those 25 discovery processing staffers.

An Albany change which has also helped is getting rid of most marijuana cases, easing prosecutorial caseload.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.