EXCLUSIVE: Thompson reflects on his first year as Brooklyn DA
In 2014, Kenneth Thompson was sworn in as Brooklyn’s first African-American district attorney. One year into his term, Thompson reflects on the accomplishments and challenges of the office, the push for criminal justice reform and the future of Brooklyn’s criminal justice system.
When Thompson entered the Brooklyn DA’s Office, he was faced with the daunting task of reviewing close to 100 wrongful conviction claims of Brooklyn defendants in prison for crimes they say they did not commit.
Brooklyn’s Conviction Integrity Unit was established in 2011 by Thompson’s predecessor, Charles Hynes. When Thompson took office in 2014, he increased the number of assigned prosecutors to the unit from two to ten and raised the annual budget to $1.1 million. Thompson’s unit–renamed the Conviction Review Unit–has cleared 11 men of wrongful convictions.
“Men were wrongfully convicted right here in Brooklyn and sentenced — given long prison sentences. We’re now correcting those miscarriages of justice,” Thompson said. Reports of Brooklyn’s high rate of wrongful conviction exonerations have made national news. The National Registry of Exonerations commended the unit’s “impressive accomplishment” in exonerating an “unprecedented number” of wrongfully convicted defendants.