Yesterday, March 10, 2016, marked the 19th exoneration in Brooklyn since the district attorney, Ken Thompson, took office in 2014. On this momentous occasion, I offer this open letter to DA Thompson:
Dear District Attorney Thompson:
Last October the Exoneration Project (EP) attended your summit on wrongful convictions, “Justice Continued: Prosecutors and Conviction Review” (the first ever event of this nature organized by a prosecutor’s office). You kicked off the summit by saying that wrongful convictions do not only affect those who spend time in prison for a crime they did not commit, “they undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
Earlier that month, you sat on a panel with an EP exoneree, Tyrone Hood, as part of the New Yorker Festival and you explained the purpose and workings of your own Conviction Review Unit (CRU). You said—soberly and quite powerfully–that, “it’s imperative for prosecutors to lead this [justice reform] movement because we have such great discretion in the criminal justice system…the people of Brooklyn elected me to be fair and to give them a justice system that they can have confidence in.” I know because I live-tweeted it.
Cook County’s own Conviction Integrity Unit reports that it has vacated the convictions of 13 individuals (many of our own clients) since its inception in 2012. 13 seems an unlucky and unlikely tally for a city dubbed the “False Confession Capital,” roughly twice the population of your Brooklyn borough.
It is with that in mind that we enter the polls this coming Tuesday, voting in the election of our own Cook County State’s Attorney in a rare and embattled Democratic primary. It is with great hope that we cast our ballots. Our great hope is that the candidates for State’s Attorney in Cook County see you, too.