News 04.16.14

Philadelphia District Attorney Announces Conviction Review Unit

On Tuesday, Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Seth Williams, announced the creation of the city’s Conviction Review Unit. The unit, which will investigate claims of innocence in homicide convictions, will be under the leadership of veteran prosecutor Mark Gilson.

 

The

Philadelphia Daily News

reported that Gilson, who has spent 27 years with the city’s District Attorney’s Office, will work closely with prosecutors assigned to the existing Post Conviction Relief Unit, which currently handles about 500 cases a year.

 

Philadelphia joins a number of states that have established similar groups authorized to review cases with claims of innocence, identify the causes of wrongful convictions and recommend remedial steps to avoid their recurrence. Among the most celebrated and accomplished is the Dallas County District Attorney’s unit, created in 2007, which has helped uncover injustice in a number of cases.

 

Marissa Bluestine, legal director of the

Pennsylvania Innocence Project

, applauded the formation of the new unit.”We are looking forward to working with Mr. Gilson and his staff to give full evaluation to those cases where there is a colorable claim of actual innocence,” said Bluestine. Her organization, which is based in Philadelphia, has petitioned city prosecutors to reopen 10 cases in the last three years.

 

The Innocence Project believes that it is critical that these units include defense attorneys in the process in order to guarantee a meaningful review of the cases.

 

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