Taking a proactive approach, the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office has launched a process to investigate “legitimate” claims that convicted individuals may be innocent, the office …
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Taking a proactive approach, the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office has launched a process to investigate “legitimate” claims that convicted individuals may be innocent, the office announced.
“If there has been a miscarriage of justice in this district, and someone's liberty is at stake, I want to ensure there is a path to have their liberty restored,” District Attorney George Brauchler said in a news release Jan. 7.
The Conviction Review Unit will consist of volunteers who once worked in the criminal justice system — former prosecutors, judges, law enforcement investigators and criminal defense attorneys — who will review claims of innocence submitted by those who have been convicted at trial in the judicial district.
The judicial district encompasses Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.
The claim submitted must be “credible evidence of innocence,” the release said — not a legal issue such as allegations of improper evidence collection or missteps in the court process, according to Vikki Migoya, spokeswoman for the DA's office. Those issues would fall outside of the Conviction Review Unit process.
The new initiative wasn't spurred by an existing case in the judicial district or by pressure from advocacy groups — it was purely Brauchler's initiative, Migoya said.
“While we have no evidence that these cases exist in our jurisdiction, I know that the criminal justice system was created, and is run, by human beings,” Brauchler said in the release. “And like anything created and run by human beings, the criminal justice system is capable of making mistakes.”
If a case is accepted, the CRU will review trial and case materials and any new evidence, and a re-investigation may be conducted, the release said. If the CRU finds a valid claim of innocence, the case will be presented to Brauchler. If he agrees with the recommendation, he'll determine what action can and should be taken.
To the DA's office's knowledge, the only other similar initiative in the Denver area is the Conviction Integrity Unit started by DA Michael Dougherty in Boulder County last year, Migoya said.
“My goal as the elected district attorney and the mission of my office is to seek justice,” Brauchler said. The CRU “is one more way I can serve the constituents who elected me to uphold and prosecute the law to the best of my abilities.”
More details about the CRU process — and the applications to serve as a volunteer or apply for a case review — are on the DA's website here.
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