In full transparency, the following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office submitted to SOURCE media.
BOSTON – In the interest of ensuring integrity and increasing public confidence in her office’s criminal prosecutions and convictions, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today, February 7, the creation of a new Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU).
The Unit will re-investigate cases involving claims of innocence and claims that call into question the integrity of the office’s investigation and/or prosecution.
Examples of potential conviction integrity concerns include police or prosecutorial misconduct, the unfairness of the process the defendant received, and newly discovered or available evidence that makes the conviction unreliable.
After review and investigation, the CIU Director, Assistant Attorney General Mary L. Nguyen, will recommend appropriate steps to remediate any wrongful convictions or other forms of misconduct to the Attorney General.
“Our office has been committed to enhancing our integrity practices and ensuring justice and public confidence in our judicial system,” said AG Healey. “With the creation of this internal unit, it is our goal to hold criminal prosecutions and convictions to the highest standards and allow for further review and investigation when appropriate.”
The Unit will consider cases where a person:
- was prosecuted in a criminal case by the Attorney General’s Office in a Massachusetts district or superior court;
- was found guilty after trial, pleaded guilty to an offense, or had a guilty plea imposed after initially receiving a continuation without a finding (CWOF);
- has exhausted all their state-level post-conviction appellate rights (ex. filed an appeal in the appeals court and a decision has been issued); and
- makes a claim of actual innocence or claims that the integrity of the conviction is in question.
If the applicant meets all these criteria, the Unit will conduct a preliminary review. If there is substantial evidence to support an applicant’s innocence or if there is substantial evidence affecting the integrity of the investigation that resulted in a conviction, a full re-investigation of the case will proceed.
Priority review will be given to those currently serving an incarcerated sentence because of the challenged conviction.
The creation of this unit reflects the culmination of work that the AG’s Office has done alongside co-chairing the Massachusetts Conviction Integrity Working Group, which included criminal justice leaders and stakeholders.
In March 2021, the group issued a comprehensive Best Practices Guide on how to address and prevent wrongful convictions in Massachusetts, which includes the creation of Conviction Integrity Units in each prosecutorial office.