By S. Priana Aquino
NEW YORK, NY — Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., has announced the launch of a new application process for those seeking a review of their convictions through the Office’s Post-Conviction Justice Unit (PCJU).
“Post-conviction justice is essential to the work of this office,” stated District Attorney Bragg, adding, “Wrongful convictions ruin lives, impair law enforcement’s ability to apprehend those who actually committed the crime, and severely undermine the public’s faith in our criminal justice system.”
With this new application process, the Manhattan DA’s Office said it seeks to prioritize collaboration and trust with the community when reviewing old cases. Anyone convicted of a crime prosecuted by the Manhattan D.A.’s office is now eligible to submit an application requesting a review.
Bragg said that once PCJU receives an application, it will conduct an initial screening and notify the petitioner whether their case will be accepted for a full reinvestigation. The Unit will prioritize cases where the applicant is convicted of a serious offense. Additionally, community members, family and friends can submit petitions on behalf of people convicted of crimes.
“It’s a great thing when someone, like me, who has been wrongfully convicted, is given a process to be exonerated,” said Derrick Hamilton, who was exonerated after serving 21 years of a life sentence.
“I commend DA Alvin Bragg for expanding the work of its Post-Conviction Unit and giving those wrongly convicted a process to be heard. This is a critical development for incarcerated individuals and their families and will hopefully pave the way toward reducing such injustices,” he added.
The PCJU will report directly to the District Attorney and provide services and support to victims and survivors who have been impacted by wrongful convictions.
The Unit said it also aims to promote conviction integrity in future prosecutions by integrating best practices through new training and root cause analysis reports.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office recognizes that there are many factors that can undermine the strength of a conviction, said Bragg, noting certain factors that are part of the reconsideration of whether to vacate or modify a conviction include innocence; request for DNA or other forensic testing; due process violation; faulty forensic science; unreliable witnesses; or ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director, Alliance of Families for Justice, reflected on this new application process, sharing that “as a former criminal defense lawyer and law professor, I bear witness to the daily challenges of ensuring that the rights of people accused of violating the law are protected and that their prosecutions are honestly undertaken.”
Elijah added, “The appointment of a former public defender signals DA Bragg’s leadership and commitment to making the PCJU a place where the community can turn for redress of police misconduct and overzealous prosecutions resulting in wrongful convictions.”