Ohio Prosecutor Creates Conviction Integrity Unit
Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty — a former county judge who as an assistant prosecutor once helped convict an Ohio man who was actually innocent and has since been outspoken about his determination to improve the local criminal justice system — recently announced the creation of a Conviction Integrity Unit to review innocence claims of prisoners who present credible new evidence pointing to a wrongful conviction.
WKYC-NBC Cleveland reported that the unit will review convictions in Cuyahoga County only and a defendant must be making a claim of actual innocence and not have a legal issue that needs to be decided in the appellate system.
“All of us in the criminal justice system have an obligation to seek justice and to seek the truth. We want to convict the guilty, not the innocent,” Prosecutor McGinty said. “So if we learn we have convicted the wrong person, we want to correct it. We always want to have open ears on the subject of innocence.”
“The number of cases where we find mistakes is going to be small, but it is important that we correct them,” Prosecutor McGinty said. “We never want to turn a blind eye just because there was a conviction.”
The convicted offender must also waive procedural safeguards and privileges, agree to cooperate with the unit and agree to provide full disclosure regarding all inquiry requirements of the Conviction Integrity Unit. Once the unit receives an application it will be evaluated to see if all criteria are met. If an investigation is warranted and the claim is with merit, a full committee will review its findings. It will then vote and share its findings with McGinty, who will make the final decision on all claims.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office joins a growing list of municipalities across the country that have established groups to evaluate wrongful conviction claims. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, about one third of exonerations were initiated by police or prosecutors or included law enforcement cooperation.
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