Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Opens Conviction Integrity Unit
Select prosecutors nationwide, from Craig Watkins in Dallas County to Cyrus Vance in New York, have established units to investigate possible wrongful convictions cases and ensure that justice has been served in their communities. Yesterday, Anita Alvarez of Chicago’s Cook County joined that trend. Alvarez recently came under fire for her office’s reluctance to exonerate nine men wrongfully convicted as teenagers in two separate murder cases. Over 70,000 people nationwide signed a petition calling on Alvarez to join in seeking to overturn the convictions. Five of the men were finally exonerated in late 2011, with the other four following in early 2012.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports:
The creation of the unit marks a “shift in philosophy,” in which the office intends to “increase our focus and our openness about these cases,” Alvarez said at a City Club of Chicago luncheon.
“In my view, my job is not just about racking up convictions, it’s about always seeking justice, even if that measure of justice means that we must acknowledge mistakes of the past,” she said
The Conviction Integrity Unit, which has been operating for the last month, consists of three prosecutors, two investigators and one victim-witness specialist, Alvarez said.
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