Post Conviction Integrity Units have been created within US prosecutors’ offices for a number of years. Google search shows 217,000 links to this subject. Criticism of the composition of a DA’s newly funded PSIU in Nevada reveals concerns about CRINO (conviction review in name only) issues that accompany these units in some jurisdictions. The public’s response to this prosecutorial review capability has been extensive. Take a look at Los Angeles. The media has proclaimed PSIU’s as a means to “right the wrongs of the past.” An early unit created in 2007 by the Dallas DA shows a notable collaboration with “innocence projects and law enforcement agencies.”
The criteria for review is a panoply of prerequisites mostly couched in legalese. Definitions are rarely provided. The common thread appears to be “proof of actual innocence” must be present in the original case. That is legal speak for “proving someone else” did the crime. The California courts have held that it is “unerring” proof of innocence. That’s nearly a factual impossibility in that most criminal cases do not contain fingerprints, DNA evidence or video images of the actual perpetrator. One exoneration in California required something very rare for success. It was a surreptitiously recorded admission by a testifying sexual assault victim of having lied to the police for financial gain. Brian Banks spent 5 years in California state prison for that lie.
What’s happening in San Bernardino’s PSIU?
In sharp contrast to San Berdoo (California slang) DA Ramos’ (pictured above) continued pursuit of a fifth trial against William Richards, Mr Ramos has a website page (authored in 2016) where a Conviction Review function exists within his department. It has a preface that is impressive. There is a form to fill out, if someone wishes to open a conviction case investigation. The unit’s participants are not listed.
“According to the latest data from the National Registry of Exonerations, which researches and documents every wrongful conviction exoneration in the nation, San Bernardino County had zero exonerations.”
He lauds how hard everyone works in his office, ….
“I am proud to say that we are accomplishing our mission.”
“Recent advances in technology and scientific evidence, such as DNA, could possibly cast doubt on some convictions. New witnesses or evidence may be discovered years after a conviction that could call into question a defendant’s guilt. It is important that we have a formal procedure to review these cases and determine whether an innocent person has been wrongfully convicted.”
He leaves out that “casting doubt” on convictions is also caused by official misconduct, perjury or false accusation, flawed or misleading forensic science, and eyewitness misidentification
What is telling within the DA’s form is the typical pre-requisite for a case to be looked at.
In light of his continued prosecution of Mr. Richards regardless of the current California Supreme Court’s disparagement of his entire case, I think DA Ramos needs to explain what “innocence” means during his nascent campaign for California Attorney General. If not, then it appears we have a CRINO event in San Bernardino and in the future, possibly the entire state.