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Denver DA forms new unit to investigate claims of innocence

The new unit looks at cases of defendants who claim their sentence was incompatible with fairness standards or who assert they were wrongly convicted.

DENVER — A unit launched within the Denver District Attorney's Office this week that aims to insure that justice is delivered in a fair way.

Denver DA Beth McCann made an official announcement about the new Conviction Review Unit (CRU) during a news conference on Wednesday. Watch below: 

"Our policies for the new unit establish specific criteria for review, including the requirement that there be a substantial basis to believe that credible evidence of actual innocence exists and that there is evidence that can actually be investigated," McCann said.

Many offices across the country already have such units.

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The CRU consists of a director/deputy district attorney, an investigator and interns who work in collaboration with the applicant’s defense counsel to investigate the applicant’s claims and, where appropriate, to support the applicant’s request for relief.

McCann said the Denver Police Department's crime lab will work closely with the new unit, testing new and old evidence.

The CRU accepts submissions to review cases of defendants who deem their sentencing is not compatible with current standards of fairness and also reviews cases of defendants who assert that they were innocent or wrongfully convicted. 

Those requests can include:

  • post-conviction petitions
  • clemency petitions
  • parole petitions
  • community corrections transition requests

Inmates convicted of sexual assault are not eligible to have their cases reviewed.

According to McCann, there have been no proven cases of people wrongfully convicted in Denver during her five years in office. Still, she said the new unit is necessary to find those rare cases where an innocent person has been sent to prison.

"I believe that it is my responsibility to make sure that we don’t have an innocent person who is sitting in DOC (Department of Corrections)," McCann said. "That is not something that we want to allow to happen. So, it’s worth it to have a dedicated unit that can look at these cases and make sure that we are ensuring that justice is done."

The new unit will also review cases for sentence reductions and clemency.

McCann said her office is already reviewing seven cases for possible claims of actual innocence, five cases for possible sentence reductions and 20 cases for clemency.

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