Friday, October 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

US prosecutors revisiting nearly 5,000 convictions

By
From page A13 | June 08, 2014 |

NEW YORK — When three half brothers’ decades-old murder convictions were thrown out last month, they became a dramatic example of an idea spreading among prosecutors nationwide: “integrity units” dedicated to double-checking convictions to determine whether justice was served.

Over the last seven years, more than a dozen prosecutors’ offices across the country have created such staff teams or expert panels to review wrongful-conviction claims. The groups have agreed to revisit more than 4,900 cases, resulting in at least 61 convictions tossed so far, according to a tally compiled from interviews, prosecutors’ reports and news accounts.

The initiatives are underway from New York City to Santa Clara County, California, and from Chicago to Dallas, fueled by growing concern about false convictions in a country that has averaged 68 exonerations a year since 1999.

“What we’ve seen take place over the last 15 years has, I think, shaken most career prosecutors to their core. . We had to respond to it,” says Scott McNamara, district attorney in central New York’s Oneida County. His year-old conviction review committee is working on three cases so far.

While advocates see the reviews as open-minded efforts to address possible injustice, some defense attorneys are cautious about embracing them. Some prosecutors have faced questions about whether they’re out to rethink convictions or just harden them.

“It’s a catchy name to say you’re a conviction integrity unit, but you have to be able to answer some of these questions,” said Barry Scheck, a co-founder of the Innocence Project, an exoneration advocacy group.

Police and prosecutors have long aided some exonerations without having special conviction-review units, and many still do. But since Dallas DA Craig Watkins started such a unit in 2007, it has freed 33 people, reviewed more than 400 cases and inspired other prosecutors. Philadelphia and Cleveland prosecutors followed suit this April.

Prosecutors acknowledge it’s an unusual role for them.

“Why are we doing this?” some Santa Clara County prosecutors asked at first, recalls Assistant District Attorney David Angel, who oversees the effort there. His reply: If the criminal justice system errs, “we have to be part of reversing that error.”

The scope and outcomes of the reviews vary.

Brooklyn prosecutors have disavowed seven murder convictions this year as they review more than 90 cases, while their colleagues in neighboring Manhattan have gotten four convictions dismissed in four years. Manhattan prosecutors have reassessed more than 150 cases and reinvestigated at least 12, but most claims “prove to be frivolous,” DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in 2012.

After a DNA-focused review of more than 1,700 cases by the Colorado attorney general and Denver DA’s offices, one man was exonerated, though the work continues. Six convictions were overturned after the Detroit-based Wayne County Prosecutor’s office retested gun evidence in more than 400 cases — but all six defendants later pleaded guilty or were convicted at retrials.

Prosecutors note that the reviews aren’t meant just to rehash. While reviewing convictions, “we also have to make sure we’re respecting the integrity of the jury system,” says Michael Nerheim, the state’s attorney in suburban Lake County, Illinois. His year-old panel is poring over three or four cases.

Appeals courts have been re-examining convictions for centuries, but prosecutors’ reviews can unearth evidence from authorities’ own files that never made it into the court record. DAs also have investigative tools that defense lawyers don’t, such as the ability to grant witnesses immunity from prosecution. And there can be “enormous advantage” in approaching prosecutors before going into the adversarial realm of court, says Claudia Trupp of the Center for Appellate Litigation in New York.

But other defense attorneys are skeptical.

Lawyer Ron Kuby branded the Manhattan DA’s effort a “wrongful conviction perpetuation unit” last month after prosecutors rebuffed a prisoner’s innocence claim in a notorious 1990 tourist killing. Prosecutors said they didn’t believe what he’d presented, including a statement from a former co-defendant who was cleared.

Conviction review units in Brooklyn and Chicago-centered Cook County, Illinois, where reviews have led to six dismissals in two years, have faced complaints that they don’t move fast enough. Prosecutors have noted the difficulty of reinvestigating decades-old cases.

Whatever the debate, it hardly mattered to Robert Hill when he left a Brooklyn court last month, free for the first time in 27 years, after prosecutors disavowed the 1980s convictions that had put him and his two half brothers behind bars.

“I’m just happy to be out,” Hill said.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
 
‘The Rocky Horror Show’ finds a home on stage

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
For sale: Solano home with Nike missile bunkers

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Cassette tapes used for music and more

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

 
Salvation Army debuts giant kettle for holidays campaign

By Robinson Kuntz | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Industrial space hot, office not in Fairfield

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
Suisun City police log: Oct. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Oct. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

New survey details vast scope of teen dating abuse

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Boosters seek to keep Bay Bridge light display

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Brown opens up spending in campaign’s final month

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Driver attacked after ice cream truck kills boy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

$50,000 reward to find killer of Anaheim girl, 9

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Video shows bikers taunting California officer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

California man guilty in wife’s stabbing death

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
PTSD argued in case of Marine jailed in Mexico

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

US tech firm fined for underpaying Indian workers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Suspect in girl’s 1984 killing was police employee

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Paintings in national parks spark probe, furor

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Lawmakers seek to end benefits to former Nazis

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

For teen with passport, Syria trip can be seamless

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Border deaths drop to 15-year low

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Prisoner in Afghanistan to be tried in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
US, SKorea agree to delay wartime control transfer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

US officials: Iraqi army regrouping slowly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Gary killings put spotlight on abandoned buildings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

NYC mayor: Don’t be alarmed by doctor’s Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NK experts: US must apologize to free detainees

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Ebola: A crash course in fear and how it hurts us

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Cremation fears leave empty Ebola beds in Liberia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Ex-Mountie hero of shooting at Canada’s Parliament

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Canada gunman wanted a passport to go to Mideast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

NY doctor back from Guinea has Ebola, 1st in city

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
.

Opinion

News out of Ferguson about what you’d expect

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11

 
Planning Commission not listening to the people

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

Not sure I trust government on Ebola

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11

 
Is America prepared for Ebola or is threat overhyped?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11

.

Living

Community Calendar: Oct. 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Oct. 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

My husband and I don’t share anything anymore, including a bedroom

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes: Oct. 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Oct. 24-30, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Review: ‘John Wick’ delivers non-stop action

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

James Corden to take over ‘Late Late Show’ March 9

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
‘Rocky Horror’ a participatory treat

By Tony Wade | From Page: B3

Entertainment calendar Oct. 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
Burns’ series gives PBS a ratings milestone

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Q&A: Mick Jagger, the film producer, heads to work

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

.

Sports

Realign the Bulldogs? Not a good a idea

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B7

 
At 1-all, World Series moves to quirky Giants park

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Giants’ Hudson to face Royals’ Guthrie in Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
College notebook: Cordes chosen to try out for USA national team

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Homecoming still on but no game for VCS

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

 
Compton among PGA leaders at Sea Island

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Steve Nash ruled out for season with back injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Judge questions $75M NCAA concussion settlement

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Arizona men near-unanimous pick by media to win Pac-12

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Raiders may lose Woodley to biceps injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

No. 6 Oregon looks to extend streak against Cal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
The Write Way: KC coach’s lineup cards are artful

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Prep football capsules: Week 8

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
Manning, Sanders lead Broncos past Chargers, 35-21

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

Sports on TV/Local sports for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

 
This date in sports history for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

.

Business

Honda Fit becomes even more intriguing small car

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
Letting your car find a spot and park itself

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2 | Gallery

Zuckerberg speaks Chinese, Beijing students cheer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11 | Gallery

 
Cloud business lifts Microsoft’s quarterly results

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

A blue Christmas for Amazon?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
.

Obituaries

Mark Dean Lindsay

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9