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Denver DA forms new unit to investigate claims of innocence

McCann: "If the wrong person is convicted, the only beneficiary of that is the true offender."

DENVER — Denver District Attorney Beth McCann announced on Wednesday that she's forming a new unit focused on keeping innocent people out of prison.

The Conviction Review Unit will consist of one prosecutor and one investigator who will look into claims of innocence by inmates convicted of crimes in Denver.  Inmates convicted of sexual assault are not eligible to have their cases reviewed.

"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.

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

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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