The Conviction Integrity Act will establish and support conviction integrity units
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX), both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation to provide federal support to conviction integrity units, which review and remedy wrongful convictions or unjust sentences. The legislation will also support high-quality representation for defendants litigating post-conviction claims of innocence.
“Our justice system should serve to protect the innocent and convict the guilty,” said Klobuchar. “By supporting the expansion of conviction integrity units and funding to help people pursue post-conviction claims of innocence, we can ensure that our justice system is better equipped to do just that.”
“It is a grave injustice when the wrong person is put behind bars for a crime they did not commit,” said Cornyn. “This legislation would fund legal teams, including prosecutors, that are dedicated to investigating claims of innocence and freeing those wrongfully convicted.”
Barry Scheck, Co-Founder of and Special Counsel to the Innocence Project, said, “The Innocence Project is grateful for Senator Klobuchar’s and Senator Cornyn’s leadership in providing yet another tool for rectifying wrongful convictions. Especially gratifying was the inclusion of robust best CIU practices that will facilitate more fair and just outcomes. From her days as County Attorney in Minnesota, Senator Klobuchar has prioritized innovative solutions, like video-taped interrogations, eyewitness identification reforms, DNA reviews, and conviction integrity units to reduce and remedy wrongful convictions.”
Billy West, President, National District Attorneys Association, said, “NDAA is proud to support Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator John Cornyn’s Conviction Integrity Act, an innovative bill which will establish funding streams to ensure prosecutors, non-profit organizations, and advocates can work to prevent and remedy false convictions. As former prosecutors, Senators Klobuchar and Cornyn are committed to the effective administration of justice and this bipartisan legislation furthers that goal by providing new grant funding for prosecutor-led efforts to identify wrongful convictions and maintain trust in the criminal justice system.”
Across the country, conviction integrity units have successfully identified and overturned wrongful convictions and unjust sentences. Last year, 129 people were exonerated, totaling 1,737 years of wrongful incarceration. Conviction integrity units and innocence organizations played an essential role in 61 percent of the exonerations.
The Conviction Integrity Act will create a new grant program to support the efforts of prosecutor offices or state attorneys general to strengthen or expand conviction integrity units that may work in partnership with nonprofit organizations, law school innocence clinics, or public defenders’ offices. Grants will be awarded to offices that incorporate best practices and respond to community needs, helping to make conviction integrity units across the country more effective.
The bill will also provide funding to nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions, or state or local public defenders’ offices with in-house post-conviction representation programs to provide post-conviction legal representation of innocence claims.
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