District Attorney Janet DiFiore has devoted her career to the fair administration of justice, both as a prosecutor and as a judge. Throughout her career, she has brought to her work a combination of bold and effective ideas, a willingness to work extensively with colleagues and partner agencies, and a non-partisan approach to problem-solving which emphasizes collaborative effort and shared credit.
Westchester County District Attorney
As District Attorney, Ms. DiFiore serves as the chief law enforcement officer of Westchester County, home to nearly one million people who reflect the broad economic, social, racial and ethnic composition of New York State itself. Currently serving her third term, she was sworn in as District Attorney in January 2006 and heads an office of 119 Assistant District Attorneys, 32 Criminal Investigators and 85 support personnel. Together, they prosecute over 29,000 cases per year, with a felony conviction rate that is consistently among the highest in New York State.
District Attorney DiFiore's law enforcement strategies have addressed the persistent problems of crime and poverty in the cities that have been part of New York State's strategic IMPACT and GIVE anti-violent crime funding programs. She has also been at the forefront of establishing innovative education and prevention initiatives to reduce crime, thereby keeping those in our community from becoming the victims of crime. Countywide strategies include targeting crimes involving gang violence, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, identity theft, the environment, animal abuse, and driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Child Fatality Review Team, Multidisciplinary Team and Child Advocacy Center
Early in her first term, District Attorney DiFiore led the multiagency effort to create a Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT) in Westchester County to examine deaths of children that are suspicious or are the result of abuse or neglect, and identify factors that might prevent future child fatalities. Working with partner agencies, the CFRT has worked to improve child safety in the County since 2007. In addition to fulfilling its statutory mandate to investigate individual deaths, the CFRT has also issued independent reports to educate the public on preventable deaths attributed to practices and products found to pose a grave danger to children, including unsafe sleeping environments, baby walkers, and unsafe use of nursing pillows and bath seats. The District Attorney's Office also led the multi-agency collaboration to establish Westchester County's Multidisciplinary Team to investigate child abuse cases, and the Child Advocacy Center, a state of the art facility where medical examinations and interviews of child victims are conducted in a child-sensitive and friendly environment with the purpose of reducing the exposure of the child to multiple interviews, often previously conducted by untrained interviewers.
Westchester Intelligence Center
At the beginning of her first term, District Attorney DiFiore recognized that there was a critical need to coordinate investigative resources and enhance information sharing among Westchester County's 42 local police departments, the County Police, the New York State Police, and the state, federal and regional law enforcement agencies that work in the County. Working with these partners, she led the effort to establish the Westchester Intelligence Center. Its primary function is to support investigations by obtaining evidence through databases, analyzing telephone data, identifying crime trends that cross jurisdictional borders, monitoring the myriad of platforms of social media used by criminals, and serving as a clearinghouse for information for our partners in law enforcement. Among its important features are the monthly CountyStat meetings where the District Attorney meets with the leaders of the various law enforcement agencies in Westchester County to share information and develop strategic approaches with respect to criminal justice issues in Westchester County.
Violent Felony Screening Protocol
District Attorney DiFiore established the Violent Felony Screening Protocol to ensure the most effective prosecution of violent crimes by initiating enhanced early review of the evidence in cases involving violent crimes. Under the Protocol, a senior prosecutor, the Violent Felony Coordinator, reviews all non-homicide violent felony cases as soon as the defendant is charged in local court in order to identify legal and factual issues warranting further attention by police or local court prosecutors. This Protocol facilitates immediate assignment of felony cases to appropriately experienced Assistant District Attorneys for vertical prosecution as well as expediting the dismissal of cases that are not supported by the evidence.
Westchester County Reentry Task Force
Serving as Co-Chair of the Westchester County Reentry Task Force since its creation in 2007, District Attorney DiFiore leads this multi-agency collaboration among government and not-for-profit agencies that work to assist individuals who are returning to Westchester County after they have completed prison terms. This New York State funded effort assists these men and women to achieve a successful reentry by linking them to such needed services as substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, educational and employment services and housing.
Multidisciplinary Team for Elder Abuse
Building upon the success of the Multidisciplinary Team that investigates cases of child abuse and responding to an increase in elder abuse cases, the District Attorney partnered with the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale and the New York State Attorney General's Office to create the Elder Abuse Multidisciplinary Team in 2011. This Team collaborates on investigations of complex cases and works to enhance the safety of elder abuse victims. The team includes Westchester County Adult Protective Services, medical and mental health professionals, local police departments and elder law attorneys.
Jewish Council of Yonkers-Westchester Community Partners SMART (Students and Mature Adults Read Together) Program
District Attorney DiFiore has served since 2007 as a mentor in the SMART program to a series of elementary school students in the Mount Vernon School District, meeting with her mentee at least bi-weekly.
Jeffrey Deskovic-Wrongful Conviction Case
In 2006, shortly after being sworn in, District Attorney DiFiore was approached by the Innocence Project on behalf of Jeffrey Deskovic, who had been convicted as a teenager in 1990 of the rape and murder of a 15-year old girl in Peekskill, NY. FBI laboratory analysis of the evidence recovered from the deceased victim produced a DNA profile that excluded Deskovic, and this exculpatory evidence was admitted at his trial. The jury, nonetheless, convicted Deskovic, based upon a confession obtained by the police, which has since been determined to be false.
In the meantime, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) had been established at the national and state level for comparisons of DNA profiles developed from crime scene evidence with the DNA of convicted offenders. In order to upload a DNA profile to CODIS for comparison, new DNA analysis was required in this case as the original analysis done by the FBI laboratory prior to Deskovic's trial was not compatible with CODIS. Deskovic sought to have a new DNA profile created and uploaded to CODIS for comparison but because the fact that he was excluded as a source of the DNA evidence recovered from the crime scene was presented at his trial, Deskovic had no legal basis under New York's Criminal Procedure Law section 440.30 to seek this relief. His legal remedies were exhausted.
Notwithstanding this, Ms DiFiore personally reviewed the case file and decided that the only just thing to do was to seek a new DNA analysis of the evidence, which fortunately had been retained by the Westchester County Laboratory. The Laboratory agreed and in September 2006, developed a DNA profile that was uploaded to CODIS. This DNA profile matched the profile of an inmate incarcerated in New York for his conviction in another Peekskill murder case. On Sept. 18, 2006 that inmate made an electronically recorded confession to criminal investigators of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office, admitting his commission of the murder and rape of the victim in the Deskovic case.
On Sept. 20, 2006 Jeffrey Deskovic appeared in court. At the initiative of the District Attorney, his murder and rape convictions were vacated and he was released. In October 2006, the District Attorney's Office moved to dismiss the indictment based upon Deskovic's actual innocence. In 2007, the District Attorney's Office secured a conviction of the true murderer of the 15-year-old Peekskill victim.
In order to identify and learn from the mistakes that led to this conviction of an innocent man, District Attorney DiFiore commissioned an independent group of outside experts to review the entire record of the case. In July 2007, she publicly issued the independent commission's report in an effort to contribute to law enforcement's understanding of wrongful convictions.
New York State Justice Task Force, Co-Chair
District Attorney DiFiore was appointed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to serve as Co-Chair of the Justice Task Force when he created it in 2009. The Justice Task Force is one of the first permanent task forces in the country to examine the causes of wrongful convictions and recommend changes to the criminal justice system to safeguard against such convictions. The Justice Task Force, which represents all participants in the criminal justice system – judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, members of law enforcement, legislators, executive branch officials, forensic experts, victim's advocates and legal scholars -- has made substantial contributions to the reform of New York law and practice designed to prevent wrongful convictions.
In 2012 legislation was enacted to allow for the expansion of a defendant's post-conviction access to DNA testing and database comparisons following the Justice Task Force recommendations. In response to the Justice Task Force's Forensic Subcommittee's discussion of a practice where the discovery of the full laboratory case file was not sought or obtained, New York State laboratories voluntarily agreed to add plain language on their summary reports linking the reports to the laboratory's forensic case file to facilitate such discovery. Proposed statutes incorporating the Justice Task force's recommendations requiring the electronic recording of custodial interrogations and the use of blinded identification procedures, as supported by prosecutors, the State Bar and the Innocence Project, are closer than ever to becoming statutory mandates in this State. And the voluntary change of practice by the participants adhering to the Justice Task Force's recommendations, including a greater use of electronic recording of custodial interrogations and enhanced eyewitness identification procedure protocols by law enforcement, advances the success of the Justice Task Force's mission to prevent wrongful convictions. The Justice Task Force recommendations may be found at www.nyjusticetaskforce.com.
Commission on Youth, Safety and Justice
District Attorney DiFiore served as a member of the Governor's Commission on Youth, Safety and Justice, created in 2014 to recommend reforms to the laws governing the prosecution of young offenders. She supported the Commission's recommendations to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18, to ensure that no 16- or 17-year olds are placed in adult facilities, to move misdemeanor and non-violent felony cases of 16- and 17-year-old offenders to Family Court, to create a new Youth Part in the adult system for violent felonies, to expand services including alternatives to incarceration, and to broaden the eligibility for Youthful Offender status thereby providing greater access to sealing provisions. View the final report.
District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, President and Director
In 2011-2012, Ms. DiFiore served as President of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, leading the organization of New York State's 62 elected District Attorneys in its work to enhance public safety by consistently setting forth the perspective and experience of New York's prosecutors in the public debates on criminal justice legislation and policy. During her tenure as President she was a lead participant in building support among colleagues for the "all crimes" DNA legislation, which included post-conviction access to DNA testing by defendants that became law. Ms. DiFiore currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York.
New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Chair
Appointed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2011 as the first Chair of the 14-member Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), the statewide ethics agency created by the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011, District Attorney DiFiore led the effort to develop this important Commission from infancy into an efficient 50+ person operation which regulates public officials, state employees, lobbyists, and lobbying clients. JCOPE is the first agency in New York State to have ethics oversight over both the Executive and Legislative branches of government.
Supreme Court Justice (2003-2005)
Supervising Judge of the Criminal Courts, 9th Judicial District
Shortly after her January 2003 swearing in as a Supreme Court Justice, Ms. DiFiore was appointed by then Chief Judge Judith Kaye to serve as Supervising Judge of the Criminal Courts for the 9th Judicial District (Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland and Putnam Counties).
Elimination of Backlog
As Supervising Judge, she restructured the case assignment system to bring more efficiency to the management and disposition of criminal cases and led a collaborative effort in the criminal courts of the 9th Judicial District that completely eliminated the backlog of criminal cases that did not meet the Standards and Goals (reportedly the first and only time since the Standard and Goals were established that any Judicial District in New York has done this).
Problem Solving Courts
Along with the Judges of the 9th Judicial District and their partners in the legal profession and social service agencies, Ms. DiFiore led the collaborative effort to establish the Mental Health Court and Sex Offender Court.
Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services
District Attorney DiFiore was appointed in 2004 by then Chief Judge Kaye to serve on the Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services, which was created to study the effectiveness, funding, quality and availability of indigent criminal defense services in New York State. The commission made its final report and recommendations to the Chief Judge in June 2006. (Ms. DiFiore continued her service on the commission following her resignation from the bench and election as Westchester County District Attorney). View the final report.
In May 2005, Ms. DiFiore resigned from the Supreme Court bench to run for election as Westchester County District Attorney.
Weschester County Court Judge (1998-2002)
Elected a Westchester County Court Judge in 1998, Ms. DiFiore presided in a wide variety of civil and criminal matters, sitting by designation in Family Court, the Surrogate's Court and Supreme Court.
Problem Solving Courts and Specialized Parts
District Attorney DiFiore played a leadership role in establishing the Juvenile Delinquency Part in the Westchester County Family Court, and then presided in this Part. She also presided in the Domestic Violence and the Drug Treatment Courts.
Commission on Drugs and the Courts
In 1999, District Attorney DiFiore was appointed by then Chief Judge Kaye to serve on the Commission on Drugs and the Courts, which was created to study the impact of drug cases on the courts of New York State and the cost to the criminal justice system, to evaluate the existing responses to these cases and to make recommendations for future reforms. Read the commission's 2000 report, Confronting the Cycle of Addiction and Recidivism.
Access to Justice Coordinator
As Access to Justice Coordinator for the 9th Judicial District, Ms. DiFiore organized numerous events to educate the public about our system of justice and to facilitate the public's access to the many specialized services available.
Assistanct District Attorney and Chief, Narcotics Bureau
Westchester County District Attorney's Office
Ms. DiFiore served for ten years as an Assistant District Attorney, including four years as Chief of the Narcotics Bureau, where she was responsible for the supervision, direction and coordination of all narcotics prosecutions within Westchester County.
District Attorney Janet DiFiore is a graduate of St. John's University School of Law and C.W. Post College, Long Island University. She is a lifelong resident of Westchester County and lives in Bronxville with her husband Dennis E. Glazer, who is a retired partner at the law firm Davis, Polk & Wardwell. They have three grown children.