U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York Announces Formation of New Conviction Integrity Committee

By Ava Schwartzapfel 

NEW YORK, NY – The U.S. Attorney’s Office released a statement this week describing a new committee that will be the first of its kind in the Office in the Southern District of New York and only the second federal conviction integrity unit nationally.

This committee “will strive to ensure justice is done in every case both by evaluating claims of factual innocence in our own cases, as well as providing assistance to access to information from SDNY cases that may bear on claims of factual innocence of defendants convicted in other jurisdictions,” the statement read.

The Conviction Integrity Committee builds off of the work the SDNY Office has done historically to support credible claims of innocence in their jurisdiction and others—intended to be a resource for both defendants and their counsel as well as liaison to the conviction integrity processes in other prosecutors’ offices, according to the statement.

The statement notes it hopes to bring the “same level of rigor” to the reviewing process of their own convictions in order to assure that they are serving the community in the best way possible. 

“Our solemn obligation as prosecutors to protect the community and seek justice for victims of crimes requires that we take every step to ensure that the guilty are held responsible and the innocent are set free,” the office said.

The statement acknowledges that a history of wrongful convictions, though infrequent, have developed a reputation of mistrust of law enforcement and have “eroded the public’s faith in the fundamental fairness of the criminal justice system.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office explained that if even one unjust conviction is remedied or just one wrongly incarcerated and innocent individual is set free, it will consider it “a successful endeavor to further the cause of justice for all.”

The Office said it hopes to further the Committee’s work and ensure that these investigative techniques that are designed to prevent wrongful convictions are continued throughout the Office.

The Conviction Integrity Committee’s new section of the Southern District of New York page of on the United States Department of Justice Website defines its duties as: evaluating and investigating as necessary any claims of factual innocence in cases previously prosecuted by the Southern District of New York; serving as a point of contact for convicted defendants or their counsel who believe the Southern District of New York is in possession of information that may bear on a claim of wrongful conviction in another jurisdiction; and being a liaison to conviction integrity units in local district attorneys’ offices. 

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