Where Brooklyn ranks in conviction review initiatives
Last week Brooklyn’s District Attorney moved to vacate murder charges against Roger Logan, convicted in the 1997 shooting death of Sherwin Gibbons. The decision followed a thorough review of the case by the Brooklyn’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU). Created in 2011, the CRU’s efforts have revealed 7 Brooklyn defendants who have been wrongfully convicted–each of which served at least 10 years behind bars.
Prosecutors around the country have set up systems to assess claims of wrongful conviction in recent years, and they have reviewed thousands of cases and dismissed dozens ofconvictions so far. A look at some of the initiatives:
— Baltimore City state’s attorney’s office: Created in 2012, an in-house conviction review unit has reversed the conviction of at least one person.
— Brooklyn district attorney’s office (New York City): Formed in 2011 and expanded under a new administration this year, the conviction review process has prompted the dismissals of at least 10 cases, seven of them this year. A 10-prosecutor internal unit and an outside panel of defense lawyers are now looking at about 90 cases.
— Cook County state’s attorney’s office (Chicago): An in-house review unit has disavowed at least six convictions since its 2012 formation.
— Colorado attorney general/Denver district attorney’s offices: Setting out to determine whether new DNA testing might cast doubt on violent crime convictions, prosecutors and investigators reviewed more than 1,700 cases from 2010 to 2014. They ultimately concluded that only one case presented enough of an identity question to merit new testing; that defendant was exonerated. The work is to continue.
— Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office (Cleveland): It announced a new nine-person unit this April to review “legitimate claims of innocence.”
— Dallas County district attorney’s office (Dallas): Formed in 2007, this two-prosecutor, one-investigator unit has reviewed more than 400 cases and cleared 33 people.
— Lake County state’s attorney’s office (Waukegan, Illinois): A year-old panel of retired judges, retired prosecutors and defense lawyers — all from outside the county — has screened more than 15 cases and is looking further at three or four so far.
— Oneida County district attorney’s office (Utica, New York): Created in 2013, a panel of prosecutors, police investigators and a community representative (a court interpreter) is reviewing three cases so far.
— Manhattan district attorney’s office (New York City): A senior prosecutor has led more than 150 case reviews, at least 12 reinvestigations and four conviction reversals since March 2010.
— Milwaukee County district attorney’s office (Milwaukee): Flaws in DNA collection spurred prosecutors in 2010 to revisit every homicide case dating to 1992; after screening 2,100 and reviewing files on 486 of them, the DA ultimately stood behind all the convictions except one that had come under question shortly before the process started.
— Philadelphia district attorney’s office: It announced this April that a new conviction review unit will assess claims of innocence and new evidence. It’s in addition to a unit that reviews requests for various forms of post-conviction relief and grants about three or four a year.
— Santa Clara County district attorney’s office (San Jose, California): Launched as an experiment in the early 2000s, later disbanded and revived by a new administration in March 2011, the in-house program has reviewed over 100 cases and exonerated at least five people.
— Wayne County prosecutor’s office (Detroit): Amid concern about how a police lab had interpreted gun evidence, prosecutors reviewed thousands of cases and retested evidence from more than 400 cases from 2010 to 2013. Six convictions were overturned, but all six defendants later pleaded guilty or were convicted at retrials.
Charisma L. Miller, Esq., Brooklyn Daily Eagle contributing.
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