Scholarship Spotlight

Conviction Review Units: A National Perspective
John Hollway
University of Pennsylvania Law School – Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice

December 23, 2015

U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 15-41

Over the past 25 years, Americans have become increasingly aware of a vast array of mistakes in the administration of justice, including wrongful convictions, situations where innocent individuals have been convicted and incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. The most prevalent institutional response by prosecutors to address post-conviction fact-based claims of actual innocence is the Conviction Review Unit (CRU), sometimes called the Conviction Integrity Unit. Since the creation of the first CRU in the mid-2000s, more than 25 such units have been announced across the country; more than half of these have been created in the past 24 months.

CRUs have grown up ad hoc, and independently defined its structure, scope, and operations, often in reaction to a limited number of specific cases with unique circumstances. Very few have written protocols, policies, or procedures, and few of those have been made public. Given this rapid increase in number and the lack of standardization or evaluation of policies, procedures, and impact of CRUs, a more detailed evaluation of the actual policies and practices of operating CRUs may be helpful to a variety of audiences. This paper provides an analysis of a national survey of CRUs to identify policies and practices established by CRUs across the country, to assist: (a) Current CRUs in understanding how their peers have approached common challenges; (b) Offices without CRUs in the creation of effective units; and (c) Communities with metrics to evaluate the units and their utility.

Full Article Available Here: Conviction Review Units: A National Perspective

4 responses to “Scholarship Spotlight

  1. Chief Justice John Roberts Announces Federal Court Reforms

    HMMMM. Perhaps an article for this site.

  2. Gosh, a long read. Just started on it.

  3. Excellent scholarly article and standards for all “ad hoc” Conviction Integrity Units/Conviction Review Units to follow, along the new ones being formed. Unless, there is a uniform standard, known to the public, they are meaningless “in name only” empty shells, simply in the federal grant “money-grab”. As we can see by the Lake County, IL prosecutors rejecting the Melissa Calusinski’s well known wrongful conviction case raises red flags and serious concerns of the value of their CRE.

  4. High-profile candidate for a Conviction Review Unit turned down in Lake County, IL? After reading this article, “Prosecutors Oppose New Trial for Melissa Calusinski in SBS Case” by Phil Locke | Wrongful Convictions Blog 1/6/15 and the above, I have serious concerns about the intent and objectives of the “ad hoc” Conviction Integrity Units/Conviction Review Units that must follow uniform standards suggested in this U. of Pennsylvania research paper.

    As I read the research paper about the Conviction Integrity Review Units, as well as, attending the recent Conviction Integrity Symposium at Santa Clara Law School, NCIP, and heard Nerheim (Lake County, IL) speak on the CRU’s prosecutors’ panel, I’m shocked, Nerheim and his CRE have turned down Melissa Calusinski’s case, and her request for a new trial. How is this CRU working for some and not others? What are they afraid of? The truth?

    Or, is this just another federal grant “money-grab”? An empty shell of a “feel-good” unit that misleads the public into thinking real work is being done to “right the wrongs” of a clearly broken justice system? Trolling-for-dollars using “feel-good” names and little intention of doing meaningful serious work? The public needs to know.

    It would now appear if the Lake County, IL CRU would refuse Melissa Calusinski’s well known wrongful conviction, that they lack sincerity and yes, it just is another “faux” money-grab for federal grants – at the expense of the taxpayers, and another “empty do-nothing-shell” created to “collect the $$$’s”. Misleading the public by those in a position of trust and integrity is an abomination!

    It’s time to free Melissa and the many innocent men, women and children languishing in prisons across America. The CRU/CIU were put in place to expedite the process by years, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, in the courts and prisons, which would put a halt to the lucrative prison building and profiteering off vulnerable people and human misery in America “land of the free” and “home of the brave”.

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