U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Wrongful Conviction Unit Project

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2009, $561,304)

This program is funded under both the Edward Byrne Memorial Competitive Grant Program (Byrne Competitive Program) and the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. Authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2009 (Pub. L. 111-8), the Byrne Competitive Program helps local communities improve the capacity of state and local justice systems and provides for national support efforts including training and technical assistance programs strategically targeted to address local needs. The JAG Program (42 U.S.C. 3751(a)) is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions, and JAG funds support all components of the criminal justice system. The JAG Program authorization also provides that 'the Attorney General may reserve not more than 5 percent, to be granted to 1 or more states or units of local government for 1 or more of the purposes specified in section 3751 of this title, pursuant to his determination that the same is necessary ' (1) to combat, address, or otherwise respond to precipitous or extraordinary increases in crime, or in a type or types of crime.' (42 U.S.C. 3756).

The Wrongful Prosecution Review Program is designed to provide high quality and efficient representation for defendants in post-conviction claims of innocence. The goals of this initiative are to provide quality representation to the wrongfully convicted, alleviate burdens placed on the criminal justice system through costly and prolonged post-conviction litigation; and identify, when possible, the actual perpetrator of the crime.

The Committee for Public Counsel Services will ensure the quality and efficiency of representation of defendants with substantial post-conviction claims of wrongful conviction in the State of Massachusetts. Specifically, the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), the state's public defender agency, has developed a two-prong strategy to address these two areas: (1) the CPCS will create a full-time Wrongful Conviction Specialist within the agency. The specialist will be responsible for the following: screening and evaluation of wrongful conviction cases; monitoring and overseeing these cases through the criminal justice system; training and certifying a panel of post-conviction attorneys to work at a high level of quality on wrongful conviction cases; litigating wrongful conviction cases; and training lawyers to use best criminal justice practices so as to reduce the number of wrongful convictions going forward; and (2) the CPCS proposes to create and monitor an 'Expert Funding System' that will allow defendants access to modest amounts of funds to hire experts and investigators who can assist them in making a preliminary showing that further states funding is needed to effectively and efficiently litigate their respective cases. The Specialist and Expert Funding System will form the basis of CPCS' 'Wrongful Conviction Unit,' its purpose being to exonerate wrongfully convicted defendants.


Date Created: September 22, 2009