U.S. Attorney's Office in LA Announces Committee to Review Innocence Claims

focus on hammer, group of files on judge table covered with dust - concept of pending old cases or work at judicial court

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A new position to address ethics and post- conviction issues and a related committee to review innocence claims brought by defendants convicted in the Central District of California were announced Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

The ethics and post-conviction review position will, among other things, oversee the work of the office's ethics and professional responsibility officers, coordinate the investigation of claims of prosecutorial misconduct, and review responses to requests for pardons and commutations, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said.

The conviction integrity committee will consider claims of factual innocence. The ethics chief will chair the committee, which will include Estrada and other highly placed officials.

The new process to review claims of factual innocence is partly modeled on committees in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere throughout the country, Estrada said.

"Our foremost duty as federal prosecutors is to achieve justice," Estrada said in a statement.

"Therefore, while we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the public and uphold the rule of law, we will also do all we can to ensure the integrity of our convictions, as well as the fairness of sentences. Transparency in the criminal justice system is important. While wrongful convictions are rare, we will carefully review -- and, when appropriate, fully investigate -- any claim that the facts of a case do not support a conviction. We are committed to obtaining fair and just outcomes in each and every case we prosecute."

Estrada added that the conviction integrity committee also will serve as "an opportunity for my office to continually review our work as prosecutors and will buttress all of the policies and procedures designed to prevent wrongful convictions."

Estrada said the post-conviction review position will be held by Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison L. Westfahl Kong, who will also chair the integrity committee. Westfahl Kong has been a federal prosecutor for 10 years, most recently serving as the chief of trials, integrity, and professionalism.

"Allison is an experienced prosecutor, a respected legal thinker, and a consummate professional," Estrada said. "Her experience and judgment will ensure success in her new role."

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