Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., announced Thursday that he is setting up a Conviction Integrity Unit to re-examine closed cases where claims of innocence have been made and to establish standard procedures for new cases to prevent wrongful convictions. The unit will consist of three components: a Conviction Integrity Committee, a Conviction Integrity Chief and an outside Conviction Integrity Policy Advisory Panel.
The committee will review practices and policies related to case assessment, investigation and disclosure obligations, with a focus on potential errors such as eyewitness misidentifications and false confessions. Comprised of senior members of the DA’s staff, the committee will also lead the investigation of post-conviction cases with credible claims of innocence. The head of the new unit will be Bonnie Sard, a senior Assistant District Attorney, who will report directly to Vance and the office’s General Counsel. The outside advisory panel will consist of 10 leading criminal justice experts including Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck. The advisory group will advise the DA’s office on how to prevent and address wrongful convictions.
Scheck told WNYC:
“I think it’s just part of an overall movement that’s going on across the country with prosecutors who are aware that these mistakes can happen, and there are better ways that we can go about evaluating them to make sure that we get it right.”
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Vance said in a press release:
“As prosecutors, it is our duty to bring our best efforts to bear in every case to ensure that only the guilty are convicted. And if we have any reason to believe that we have prosecuted or are prosecuting someone who is actually innocent, we must take prompt steps to investigate the matter and see that justice is served.”
Other coverage of the Conviction Integrity Unit:
Albany Times Union
The New York Times