District Attorney Diana Becton announced recently that she has created the first ever standalone Conviction Integrity Unit for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. The unit will investigate wrongful conviction claims of actual innocence based on new evidence and information, and cases where there is evidence involving significant integrity issues. Interested parties can submit a claim using the forms on the district attorney’s website to the Conviction Integrity Unit through the District Attorney’s Office.
“Our Office is ethically bound to consider any legal wrongs committed during a prosecution of an individual. With this new unit, the public can be assured we have resources now at our disposal to investigate prior convictions and seek justice for the wrongly convicted. We have a duty as prosecutors to uphold the law and administer fair justice for all. Our Office now joins over 30 jurisdictions across the country in a growing movement to establish Conviction Integrity Units,” said Becton.
The Conviction Integrity Unit will also assist in reviewing and developing practices and policies related to training, case assessment, investigations, and disclosure obligations with the goal of preventing wrongful convictions in the first place. The unit is supervised by Deputy District Attorney Brian Feinberg and overseen by Assistant District Attorney Venus D. Johnson.
Multiple national and local criminal justice organizations such as the Innocence Project, Fair and Just Prosecution, and Immigration Legal Resource Center support DA Becton’s move to create the Conviction Integrity Unit.
In a support letter, Fair and Just Prosecution’s Miriam Aroni Krinsky wrote: “Having a process for review of convictions through a CIU is a recognized best practice around the nation. Establishing these protocols in Contra Costa County will protect the integrity of the criminal justice process and promote public safety by bolstering trust and confidence in local law enforcement and the justice system as a whole.”
Rose Cahn, a Criminal and Immigrant Justice Attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s said: “We applaud the CCCDA’s leadership and its commitment to ensuring that innocent people do not face continued punishment, from inside or outside the criminal justice system.”
Northern California Innocence Project’s Executive Director, Linda Starr, also supports the creation of a standalone Conviction Integrity Unit as our Office’s new unit “includes all of the best practices — neutral, expansive, and collaborative review — which will lead to just results.”