Justice Matters:

Ama’s plan to ensure integrity at the Brooklyn DA’s office

The revelation that potentially dozens of defendants were unfairly prosecuted and wrongfully convicted by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has severely harmed the integrity of the office and Brooklynites’ trust in the criminal justice system.

To restore trust and ensure that the DA’s office meets the high standards of justice that Brooklynites expect, Ama is proposing systemic reforms and an unprecedented investment into programs and procedures to both prevent and uncover mistakes and misconduct by prosecutors, and to undo its damage.

Here is Ama’s plan
to restore the integrity of the Brooklyn DA’s office:

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DAs are responsible for investigating misconduct in the criminal justice system, including in their own offices—yet it rarely happens. Even after nearly two dozen men prosecuted by the Brooklyn DA’s office were found to have been wrongfully convicted, no punishments were handed out, and nothing was done to deter future misconduct.

That is unacceptable.  That is why Ama will:

  • Ama will create an independent Commission on Prosecutorial Misconduct to review all cases overturned because of a prosecutor’s suppression of evidence or violation of the rules of conduct governing prosecutors. The Commission will make public recommendations for punishment.
  • If prosecutorial misconduct was intentional or malicious and resulted in an individual’s prolonged loss of his or her freedom, Ama will motion the court to appoint a special prosecutor from a standing list to independently investigate and determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
  • In cases of potential criminal misconduct by other members of the criminal justice system, Ama will also ask the court to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

 

Wrongful convictions are often the result of systemic failures within the criminal justice system that lead to the suppression or mishandling of evidence. Sometimes even simple errors can doom innocent people to prison.

To prevent wrongful convictions and ensure accountability at the Brooklyn DA’s office, Ama will:

  • Implement oversight systems — including formal checklists — for each case so that the rules of evidence are followed.
  • Institute and enforce a standard protocol to ensure prosecutors appropriately and lawfully disclose evidence during the course of a trial and criminal proceedings.
  • Require biannual ethics training for all staff, and develop and implement general education programs for staff on best practices to avoid prosecutorial error.
  • Designate Integrity Officers, who will be empowered to review and audit decided cases at their discretion and when directed by the DA. Those officers will file quarterly public reports based on their findings.
A shocking number of cases prosecuted by the Brooklyn DA’s office resulted in wrongful convictions, damaging the office’s credibility. Clearing every tainted case must be a top priority, with the resources to match the urgency.

To restore the credibility of the office, Ama will:

  • Significantly expand the Conviction Review Unit to get to the bottom of the problem, and to find justice for every mishandled case and unfairly prosecuted defendant.
  • Expand an accountability board of independent justice experts to analyze the Unit’s work, and direct the Unit to issue quarterly reports on its progress and performance.
  • Create a standardized application to expedite processing of claims of wrongful conviction or new evidence establishing innocence for inmates prosecuted by the office who are appealing their conviction.