Unfortunately, AZ judges are also seemingly numb to the inhumanity of incarceration - they tear apart lives and families all too readily. Not enough of them know what it's like to be taken prisoner and held under threat of death if they resist, to lose their kids when wrongfully convicted of a sex crime, or to be raped while being detained in the custody of the state. If they did, we'd have half the number of people in prison as we do now - and a lot fewer kids suffering from their parent's punishment through their forced absence and economic incapacitation.
Anyway, more DA's are finally stepping up to look at innocence claims and exonerations. We can't rely on all of them to be noble and honest, though. In light of the way Thomas has handled (or refused to handle) wrongful convictions in Maricopa County - and appears to go after his political enemies with the weapons of his office - someone other than the original prosecutor and judge should be monitoring for wrongful convictions and abusive prosecutions and sentences.
We need to start making this one of the most "talked-about issues" of the campaign for Attorney General and Maricopa Co. Attorney's Office - even the governor's race, since Goddard should be more on the ball with these himself.
March 4, 2010
The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., announced Thursday that he would start a program to safeguard against wrongful convictions, addressing one of the most talked-about topics during his campaign for the office.
Known as the Conviction Integrity Program, the effort will be led by Bonnie Sard, a veteran assistant district attorney, who will monitor cases that raise red flags and oversee reinvestigations. The program will also include a panel of 10 of Mr. Vance’s top assistants to review cases and the office’s prosecutorial practices, as well as a panel of outside experts to advise on policy.
While Mr. Vance said he believed the office had long tried to make sure that it did not make mistakes, he said a structured system would take the approach one step further.
“I think this will help lawyers do better what they already were doing, and with more consistency,” Mr. Vance said in an interview.
It is nothing new for prosecutors to vet their own convictions and to question their investigations, said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Astoria, Ore., and a member of the board of the National District Attorneys Association. But establishing a specific unit in a district attorney’s office to examine convictions is an emerging trend, Mr. Marquis said, adding that the Manhattan office faced unique challenges because of its size. The office has about 400 assistant district attorneys.
“The worst nightmare of a prosecutor is not losing a case; it’s convicting an innocent person,” Mr. Marquis said. “I think a prosecutor’s always got to be willing to look back and say, ‘Hey, did we do the right thing?’ ”
Ms. Sard and both panels are expected to come up with additional training procedures to pass on to all assistants in the office, Mr. Vance said.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has not always had a reputation for admitting its faults. In one instance, a former assistant district attorney, Daniel L. Bibb, said his bosses had urged him to defend the convictions in the 1990 Palladium nightclub shooting at a hearing, even though he believed that the two defendants were not guilty.
But Mr. Vance, who became the district attorney this year, said he believed he was setting a tone.
“Young assistants who have issues know they can raise those issues,” he said. “There is no downside. There is only an upside to raising a concern.”