This Unit reviews and investigates claims of innocence raised after a criminal conviction involving homicides, sex offenses and violent crimes. The unit may examine claims of innocence in other types of cases if a significant prison commitment or collateral consequence indicates that an examination of the case is warranted. In addition, the Unit shall be responsible for ensuring that any claim of Prosecutorial Misconduct made during the pendency of any criminal matter is thoroughly investigated and litigated prior to the completion of that pending criminal matter.
The Unit shall consist of the Assistant Chief Deputy and an assigned Deputy District Attorney. No assigned personnel shall conduct the examination and/or investigation into any matter that he/she was assigned as the primary prosecutor during the pendency of the initial prosecution. Any other Deputy District Attorney assigned to assist in the examination and/or investigation of a conviction integrity case shall not have had responsibility for the initial prosecution of the case.
All Post-Conviction claims of actual innocence, no matter in what form the claim is raised, shall be forwarded to the assigned Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney for review. The Assistant Chief Deputy shall insure that the claim is properly documented in our Case Management System, LawSuite, and that the claim and the file are uploaded and assigned an entry number.
The Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney shall review each claim to determine whether any further action or investigation is warranted. If after conducting the initial review a determination is made that the claim does not warrant further investigation, the Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney shall notify the defendant (or requesting party) and any known counsel that no further action will be taken on the claim. Claims with strong indicia of actual innocence will be investigated by Unit personnel.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney shall determine whether all avenues of inquiry have been exhausted and whether based on the investigation there is a plausible claim of innocence. The existence of a reasonable doubt does not necessarily result in a conclusion that the defendant is actually innocent, the conclusion must be that there is clear and convincing evidence that there exists a plausible claim of actual innocence in the case.
The Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney shall prioritize the examination and review of cases as follows:
- Sexual Assault Cases;
- Violent and Serious Felony cases involving substantial state prison commitments; and
- Other felony cases involving a substantial prison commitment or other significant collateral consequence.
While cases where a defendant entered a plea of guilty or no contest will not be excluded from review, as the possibility exists that an innocent defendant may have plead to a crime he/she did not commit to avoid a potential significant sentence. However, these cases require greater scrutiny and the Claim of Innocence initially submitted must be compelling. To submit a claim of innocence, please fill out the CIU Request Form and deliver it to our office.
There shall be greater scrutiny when there are claims of actual innocence that cite newly discovered evidence that bears on innocence or that raise claims that have been found to be “red flag” issues such as misidentification, witness recantation, lying by an informant/cooperator, meaningful claims of alibi, or substantial Brady violations that would appear to involve actual innocence.
As a general policy, the Unit will not investigate, in the absence of other compelling justification, claims where a defendant knew or should have known the basis of his/her current claim at the time of the conviction, or where the defendant now disavows his/her trial testimony and offers a different theory of innocence. In addition, except where there is a compelling showing that a guilty or no contest plea was entered to avoid a more significant sanction, the defendant must have continually maintained his/her innocence from the inception of the case.