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Contra Costa DA creates special unit to investigate wrongful conviction claims

Conviction Integrity Unit to start probes when presented with new evidence

Try as they might, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton acknowledges that sometimes, the justice system fails to identify the right perpetrator of a crime -- and sometimes these failures result in wrongful convictions.

To counter these cases, Becton has established the county’s first-ever DA's Conviction Integrity Unit, which when presented with new evidence or cases where there is evidence involving significant “integrity issues," will be used to investigate wrongful conviction claims, striving to prove the innocence of those previously thought to be guilty.

The unit will be supervised by deputy DA Brian Feinberg and overseen by assistant DA Venus D. Johnson

“Our office is ethically bound to consider any legal wrongs committed during a prosecution of an individual. With this new unit, the public can be assured we have resources now at our disposal to investigate prior convictions and seek justice for the wrongly convicted. We have a duty as prosecutors to uphold the law and administer fair justice for all. Our office now joins over 30 jurisdictions across the country in a growing movement to establish Conviction Integrity Units,” Becton said.

The Conviction Integrity Unit will also be used to review the practices and policies used in the county to prevent wrongful convictions before they happen.

The move was praised by several prominent criminal justice organizations such as the Innocence Project, Fair and Just Prosecution, and Immigration Legal Resource Center, who stated that the unit would go a long way in building the public trust and ensuring the innocent do not face punishment.

“Having a process for review of convictions through a CIU is a recognized best practice around the nation. Establishing these protocols in Contra Costa County will protect the integrity of the criminal justice process and promote public safety by bolstering trust and confidence in local law enforcement and the justice system as a whole,” Fair and Just Prosecution’s Miriam Aroni Krinsky wrote in a letter supporting the unit.

Rose Cahn, a criminal and immigrant justice attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, praised Becton’s leadership in particular, saying, “We applaud the CCCDA’s leadership and its commitment to ensuring that innocent people do not face continued punishment, from inside or outside the criminal justice system.”

In order for an application to be reviewed, the conviction in question must have happened in Contra Costa County and all communication with the DA’s office must be made through an attorney -- if the applicant is represented by an attorney.

To submit an application to have your case reviewed residents can download the application online and email it to the unit at DA-ConvictionIntegrity@ContraCostaDA.org, participants can also mail completed applications to the DA’s office at Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney, Attention: Brian Feinberg Conviction Integrity Unit, 900 Ward St., Martinez, 94553.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by June Steckhahn
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 5, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Hopefully this sort of resource will be available nationwide.
Aside from the stories I’ve heard over the years of mistaken identity, my eyes were further opened to the injustices of the justice system after reading the excellent book, “Just Mercy”, by Bryan Stevenson.
If you are not yet familiar with Bryan Stevenson, he is a true hero. He and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for over 125 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.


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