Atlanta, GA, February 6, 2020: In USA and across the world, hundreds of people have spent time in prison for crimes they did not commit. Wrongful convictions mean the real culprit walks free.
The reason for wrongful convictions result from multiple factors: Eyewitness misidentifications, poor crime scene visibility, bad police procedures, and coerced false confessions from defendants, lying informants, and bad forensics science. When public defense lawyers are incompetent and prosecuting attorneys suppress important evidence, wrongful convictions increase.
Organizations such as the Innocence Project have contributed to 2542 exonerations across US since 1989. These are people who have served an average of 14 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. That means 22,540 years of human capital lost. To date, 367 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing alone,
On Wednesday, January 8, 2020, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. officially announced the commencement of its Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), the first in the Southeastern United States in a DA’s Office. During the inaugural reception at Tyler Perry Studios, the first defendant to be released from prison as a result of the work of the Fulton DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit received a surprise job offer from Tyler Perry Studios.
This new unit will re-examine questionable convictions and help guard against future conviction error. Staffed with a dedicated Assistant District Attorney and investigator, the CIU’s primary charge is to review and investigate convicted offenders’ legitimate claims of innocence and wrongful conviction.
Cases will be evaluated by a Review Board made up of five individuals including Indian-American Nazeera Dawood who is a Fulton County leader and activist.
Other board members include Michael Lash who is a citizen advocate, Richard Rose who is the President of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP, Bettieanne Hart who is a former Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Deputy District Attorney and Kate Boccia who is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Incarceration Association.
As a symbolic gesture, DA Paul Howard handed the keys of the Fulton County jail cell to the review board members. It symbolized that they carry the keys to the freedom of innocence responsibly.
Following conviction cases in Fulton County will be evaluated by the staff and the review board.
- Claims of Actual Innocence Involving Provable Evidence
- Forensic Testing of Relevant Evidence
- Claims Involving Relevant Evidence Not Presented Prior to Conviction
- Alleged Misconduct on Part of Prosecutor/Law Enforcement Officer
- Sentence Modifications Due to Nature of Offense/Defendant’s Lack of Criminal History
- Cases Determined to Warrant Review in “Interest of Justice”
The CIU is committed to ensuring all submissions receive a thorough and equitable review. Anyone who wishes to submit an application for review to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit should do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.