A conviction integrity initiative.

AuthorVance, Cyrus R., Jr.
PositionWrongful Convictions: Understanding and Addressing Criminal Injustice

Thank you, Chief Judge Lippman. It's always a great pleasure to be with you and I want to tell you how pleased I am to be able to look forward to working with you on the Task Force.

There are a number of people I would like to thank and recognize. I want to thank Albany Law School for inviting me to participate in a very important symposium. I think the issue of wrongful convictions is the issue that vexes prosecutors more than any other.

And I want to thank the school, the Dean, and I want to give recognition to Kate Hogan, the President of the District Attorneys Association; I'm privileged to serve under your leadership, Kate. To Professor Bonventre, whose brother I worked with in the D.A.'s office. We have assistant D.A.'s from Special Narcotics, Kris Hamann, in attendance. And I want to give a special shout out to an alumna of this great law school, Liz Loewy, who I think was here last week talking about a large case she tried in Manhattan recently involving the Astor will.

The issue of fairness in our justice system, and the issue of the possibility of wrongful convictions is something that is important to every prosecutor. That's the first message I'd like to deliver.

When I came back to the Manhattan D.A.'s office, I had been in private practice for twenty years. It was remarkable for me to be reminded--having had been a defense lawyer for twenty years-that the lawyers in that office really do go to work every day, for little pay, focusing very much on trying to make sure that they serve the justice system both in a legal and a moral capacity to the best of their abilities.

It is a reality, it's a tragic reality that we live in a system where from time-to-time people are falsely accused and wrongfully convicted. I must say though, I am absolutely committed in my belief that prosecutors want and are active and aggressive partners in making sure those types of injustice don't happen, and where they are revealed, to reverse them.

We know the issues that create wrongful convictions: unreliable informants, confessions that are sometimes coerced, unreliable identifications, the stakes in the handling of evidence, and errors in science.

So the question is, for me, as a prosecutor, honored and privileged to succeed three extraordinary D.A.'s in the last seventy-five years--Tom Dewey, Frank Hogan and Bob Morgenthau--what is it that I can do as a prosecutor to make sure that the public understands that wrongful convictions are my highest...

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