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Conviction Integrity Unit increasing capability of Postconviction Case Review, Evidence Location and DNA Testing in violent felony case where the results of such testing may show innocence.

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,600,000)

In 2022, the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office (in Michigan’s third
largest county) hired a Conviction Integrity Attorney (CIA), for its newly established Conviction
Integrity Unit (CIU). The purpose of the CIU is to address claims of wrongful conviction. Most
applying to the CIU are convicted of violent crimes. Racial disparity and educational deficits are
prevalent. Applicants to the CIU are disproportionately black. The 2020 census showed a county
population of 876,792; 79 percent were “white/alone,” and 13.3 percent were “black/alone.” In
2022, the CIU had 44 requests for assistance. Twenty-five met the eligibility requirements, and
of those, 14 were black (56 percent), 9 were white (36 percent), 1 identified as Latino, and 1
person’s race is unknown. Crime severity of the eligible applicants was high. Fifteen involved
homicides. Twelve of those involved life sentences. Three were second-degree murders with
minimum sentences of 17–50 years. Of the remaining cases, most were violent felonies with
minimal sentences of 18–5 years. In Macomb County, 90.4 percent of residents have at least a
high school education. Of the 15 homicide convictions, 3 had less than a high school education,
1 had obtained a GED, 3 had high school diplomas, and 2 had high school plus additional
education; the educational status of 6 was unknown. Two of the 15 were in special education
The CIA’s goal is to analyze and review claims of wrongful convictions in a population often
underserved by the criminal justice system. These applicants often lack resources to locate
evidence, conduct forensic testing, and obtain experts and adequate defense counsel. Grant
objectives are to review cases to identify potential post-conviction DNA cases, review cases to
determine whether DNA testing may prove actual innocence in a violent felony, locate biological
evidence, conduct DNA testing, and recommend relief when warranted. To date one wrongful
conviction has been dismissed and vacated. Current cases will take 3–4 years to clear. Every
month, the CIA receives 2–5 new requests to assess and potentially investigate. With the grant
money, additional dedicated resources would assist the CIU in investigations of wrongful
convictions using DNA evidence to establish actual innocence. The CIU projects it could
improve the quality and speed of violent felony case review to establish innocence or not via
DNA testing by 100–200 percent over three years.
Conference Activity Description: No conference activity is proposed

Date Created: September 27, 2023