OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) — Convicts convinced of their innocence may have a second shot at justice. On Friday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the creation of a new post-conviction justice unit.
One local district attorney’s offices have similar programs, but this is a first for the CA Department of Justice.
The CA Department of Justice is launching a post-conviction justice unit. The first in the state DOJ’s history. Bonta made the announcement during a news conference in Oakland on Friday.
“We will have a team dedicated solely dedicated to ensuring the integrity of criminal convictions statewide and working to correct potential miscarriages of justice,” Bonta said.
Bonta says the team will be comprised of two deputy attorney’s general. They will review and evaluate cases handled by the DOJ either as the prosecuting agency or an appeal.
The team will review claims of innocence, wrongful conviction or where the integrity of a case may have been compromised.
“If the sentence is determined to have been excessive based off the facts or new developments, we’re prepared to review it,” Bonta said.
Some district attorney’s offices throughout the state have similar units, including locally in Contra Costa and Napa counties.
Bonta says in those communities his team will assist in reviews but will focus mainly on areas where this kind of unit does not exist — especially those racially marginalized.
California Innocence Coalition said in a statement, “attorney general Bonta’s creation of the post-conviction justice unit is a powerful recognition of California’s need to address the problem of wrongful conviction in our state.”
“We’re going to have a broad range of oversight and review to do what we know is necessary to ensure no one is convicted of a crime they didn’t commit,” Bonta said. “That folks who are innocent aren’t incarcerated. That when there’s error in a process, and constitutional rights are violated, there’s an opportunity to cure that error and that folks aren’t suffering from excessive sentencing.”
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The National Registry of Exonerations reports there have been more than 3,300 exonerations nationally since 1989.