Wayne County Prosecutor Seeks to Expand Conviction Integrity Unit

Conviction Integrity Unit Explained

The Conviction Integrity Unit is a department within the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office that seeks to investigate claims of innocence among those who have been convicted and imprisoned for a variety of serious crimes. The Conviction Integrity Unit looks to determine if there is new evidence that is clear and convincing that the person convicted was not the person who committed the alleged crime. The Conviction Integrity Unit has three attorneys working full time, two part time, as well as a full-time investigator and full-time administrative staff member. Since its inception in 2018, the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit has granted 20 exonerations to those wrongly convicted and imprisoned. Among them is Richard Phillips, a man who spent the longest time in prison before being exonerated after 45 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Various groups such as the University of Michigan Law School Innocence Project have been instrumental in investigating and helping bring claims forward for those who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned.

Prosecutor Seeks Additional Funding

Current Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is now seeking additional funding in an effort to expand the Conviction Integrity Unit. Worthy has asked for $800,000 to help these inmates get free college education, as well as securing housing and daily transportation. When an inmate is released after a lengthy period of time in prison, it is a natural occurrence for them to need time and assistance to acclimate to the changes they are experiencing. Many of these exonerees were put in prison at a time when cell phones, or even personal computers were not widely available for instance. This additional funding that Worthy is seeking would go towards helping those wrongly imprisoned get their basic needs covered and allow them an opportunity at a positive future. The Conviction Integrity Unit has worked on about half of the requests for review that it has received since the implementation of the program. Information from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office shows that out of the 1,300 requests for review, they have worked on about 700 of them so far. This still leaves some 600 cases of people seeking review for their potentially wrongful convictions. A potential expansion of the office could greatly aid in catching up with these requests for review.

What Happens Next?

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a $150 million running deficit for Wayne County. It would seem that Worthy’s calls for funding come at a time where money might simply not be there. Worthy is facing stiff competition in this year’s election from defense attorney Victoria Burton-Harris. Burton-Harris has the endorsement of United States Senator Bernie Sanders and even activist and singer John Legend for her views and plans to help reform the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and its policies. She has advocated for the elimination of cash bail and poverty crimes. Burton-Harris has also pushed for an automatic marijuana conviction expungement system as well as the end of facial-recognition software in criminal law enforcement as she is currently representing a man who was wrongly arrested for shoplifting because of facial-recognition software that incorrectly identified him as the culprit. While Worthy’s call for additional funding for the Conviction Integrity Unit is pending, she will have to win the election in order to continue her work as the Wayne County Prosecutor.

Any Further Questions?

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.

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