WEST HOLLYWOOD—On Tuesday, June 29, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the creation of a special unit called the Conviction Review Unit. The unit received nearly $1 million in funding from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervision.
The purpose of the unit is to review cases from prisoners who claim to have been falsely imprisoned. The unit is designed to ferret out the wrongful convictions of those that are presented to them. The Conviction Review Unit will be led by Ken Lynch, who has served 22 years with the District Attorney’s Office. The unit will also consist of deputy district attorneys, a senior investigator, and a paralegal staff.
There are 71,000 felony cases annually, and most cases are appealed. According to The Innocence Project, a public policy organization that works to exonerate people who are wrongfully convicted of crimes, around 2-4 percent of incarcerated individuals could potentially be innocent (although there is no way to know for sure how many innocent people are currently incarcerated). Due to so many high-profile cases being overturned, Lacey decided that it was time to move forward with the unit. Although the project has been in the making since 2012, these cases gave the unit the final push forward that was needed.
Not every prisoner can qualify for a review of their case. Lacey states that there are five criteria that must be met in order to be considered. First, there must have been a clear claim of innocence and not of self-defense. Second, they can only bring up their case for review if there is newly discovered evidence. Third, the claim of innocence must be based on identity. Fourth, the person must have always pleaded innocent. Lastly, the claim must be brought for a conviction obtained after trial. If given merit, the case will be presented to the Conviction Review Unit, and if the Committee has lost faith in the conviction, it can be overturned.
The requests for review must be written to the Conviction Review Unit and should be addressed to the following address: District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, Attn: AHD Ken Lynch, 320 West Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.