Create an Account - Increase your productivity, customize your experience, and engage in information you care about.
Reviewing Post-Conviction Claims of Innocence or Over-Conviction
Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler, on April 23, 2019, released an update on the Orange County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Program (CIP). The CIP was established in July 2015 to review claims of actual innocence submitted by defendants who were convicted of crimes. In addition, the CIP reviews claims where defendants allege that, although they committed an offense during an incident, they were convicted of a crime that was grossly disproportionate to the nature of their conduct in that incident.
The District Attorney’s update on the nearly-four-year history of the CIP comes as the New York State Bar Association, on April 22, 2019, called on all of New York’s 62 district attorneys to establish similar programs.
The CIP program establishes the CIP Committee, which may be convened to investigate claims of innocence or claims of over-conviction, in order to recommend to the District Attorney courses of action necessary to fairly resolve those claims. The Committee is made up of five members of the District Attorney’s staff, one of whom acts as the CIP Coordinator; two police chiefs; and two criminal defense attorneys. The membership of the Committee is designed to provide representation from outside of the District Attorney’s Office, and representation from the criminal defense bar, so that the Committee can act somewhat independently and can call on multiple perspectives on the issues that it considers.
When a defendant or someone acting on behalf of a defendant makes a claim of innocence or of over-conviction, the CIP process considers the claim. The outcome of that process ranges from summary denial of facially frivolous claims by the CIP Coordinator, in consultation with the District Attorney; to a detailed review by the CIP Committee; all the way to complete re-investigation of cases where the claim appears to have merit. If the process establishes that a claim is valid, the District Attorney’s staff will take whatever steps are necessary to get the case into court to ensure that the proper outcome is achieved.
Since the inception of the CIP, 35 claims have been reviewed. Four of those claims had been reviewed and denied by the District Attorney’s staff before the CIP was established. The CIP Coordinator took a fresh look at those four claims and determined that the original rejection of the claim was appropriate. Most of the remaining claims were summarily denied by the CIP Coordinator, after consultation with the District Attorney, either because the claims were frivolous on their faces, because the claims raised legal issues that did not reflect on the factual guilt or innocence of the defendant, or because the claims did not reflect that a sentence was grossly disproportionate to the crime of conviction. One case was subjected to a review by the CIP Committee, and the Committee unanimously rejected that claim as well. One case is currently under review by the CIP Committee.
“Since long before I took office,” said District Attorney David Hoovler, “I have found that prosecutors in New York and throughout the country stand for one thing: doing the right thing for everyone involved in the criminal justice system, guilty and innocent alike. That’s why I established our Conviction Integrity Program – to ensure, to the extent humanly possible, that the innocent aren’t punished and that even the guilty aren’t punished more severely than justice demands. Unfortunately, there are those in Albany who think that prosecutors can’t be trusted. Those people only think that because they’re not paying attention. I’m proud to know that my Office’s CIP was established nearly four years before the New York State Bar Association called on New York’s district attorneys to establish similar programs. Going forward, we will continue to do our best to protect the freedom of the innocent, and to being the guilty to justice.”
To make a claim under the Orange County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Program, send the claim in writing to CIP Coordinator Robert J. Conflitti, Counsel to the District Attorney, at the District Attorney’s Office, County Government Center, 255-275 Main Street, Fourth Floor, Goshen, New York 10924. And other interested parties may contact Mr. Conflitti for further information about the program.