In order to truly fulfill our mission to seek justice for all, our ethical obligations do not end once a conviction is secured. Seeking justice is not about conviction rates or win-loss records but seeing that the correct result occurs.
Evolutions in forensic sciences, as well as changes in court opinions and legislation governing the criminal justice system, make it critical that our office remain at the forefront of developing and implementing mechanisms that ensure the rightful administration of justice, safeguarding that the guilty are convicted and the innocent freed.
While every prosecutor at the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office is responsible for conviction integrity, the creation of our Conviction Integrity Unit was a natural and essential progression. Our Conviction Integrity Unit will:
1) Review from a neutral standpoint cognizable claims of actual innocence, and systemic issues which can result in wrongful convictions, collaborating with relevant parties in the course of those reviews, to determine if the correct results occurred; and
2) Assist with developing best practices and procedures based on the most up to date information, to facilitate prosecutors’ diligently and ethically fulfilling their responsibilities toward the rightful administration of justice.
CIU Review Process
Whenever CIU receives an external request from a convicted person or someone acting on their behalf, CIU will send a review request form to the requesting party. CIU will not commence a review until receipt of a completed and signed form from the convicted person. CIU will immediately commence reviews on internal requests from law enforcement, other prosecutors, or a court.
Upon receipt of a completed and signed review request form, CIU will determine if the conviction arises from a Tarrant County case and whether the conviction is final and does not have any pending post-conviction activity. If a review is rejected at intake, CIU will notify the applicant or initial referring person/agency of that fact. If a referral to a different division within the TCCDA's office appears warranted, CIU will refer the case to the appropriate division and also notify the applicant or referring person/agency.
All preliminary reviews start with a CIU review team consisting of one attorney and one investigator reviewing the request form to determine if the convicted person raises any eligible claims of actual innocence or systemic due process.
The review team will review any relevant prosecution files, the clerk's records, the reporter's records (if applicable), appellate briefs and any other post-conviction litigation. The reviewing team also will determine what evidence, if any, could substantiate the applicant's claims and if such evidence is potentially available. The attorney also will determine if the reviewed files or records raise any eligible claim not raised in the review request form. Upon completion of a preliminary review, the reviewing team will present the case to the entire CIU team.
If the convicted person's claims are unsubstantiated, CIU will close out its preliminary review and notify the convicted person by mail. The reviewing attorney will draft a work product summary explaining why relief is not recommended for CIU records.
If any claim merits further investigation, CIU will determine what further investigation is warranted through a Phase 1 review.
Phase 1 Review | Re-Investigation
A Phase 1 review may include re-interviewing original law enforcement personnel, forensic personnel, witnesses and attorneys, as warranted. CIU might also review the physical evidence or request additional testing in conjunction with relevant claims. CIU might also consult with additional forensic personnel, law enforcement, or experts as deemed necessary to the resolution of any issues. Upon completion of a Phase 1 review, the reviewing team again will present the case to the entire team to determine if the convicted person's case warrants any relief and if any relief is available.
If the claims are unsubstantiated after a Phase 1 review, CIU will close out its review and notify the convicted person by mail. The reviewing attorney will draft a work product summary explaining why relief is not recommended for CIU records.
If any claim merits further relief, the reviewing attorney will submit a report or presentation to the Criminal District Attorney detailing why and what type of relief is recommended. The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney will make any final decision regarding whether or what relief will be pursued.
Phase 2 Review | Litigation
A Phase 2 review involves seeking relief for an applicant through either a writ application to the Court of Criminal Appeals or a commutation request to the Governor. The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney will make any decision on the appropriate relief option.
CIU will handle all litigation necessary to obtain relief, including obtaining the appointment of counsel to represent the applicant in any collaborative writ process. CIU will share its investigation with appointed counsel on all agreed claims for relief and provide any requested assistance to appointed counsel in this writ process. CIU will prepare all responses on behalf of the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office and represent the office in any court proceedings, including before the Court of Criminal Appeals which has the sole authority to overturn any final felony conviction.
This page was last modified on May 6, 2022
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