Conviction Integrity

ENSURING FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE IN PROSECUTION
 

The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office embraces its obligation to ensure fairness and justice for all parties to a crime: the victim, the community, and the defendant.  This obligation includes our openness to reviewing claims of past injustice and our active work to prevent future injustices.  

CONVICTION INTEGRITY PROGRAM


The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office is dedicated to investigating claims of actual innocence and wrongful convictions, and taking remedial action as necessary to correct errors.  The Office is also committed to facilitating access to post-conviction DNA testing for viable innocence claims. It is District Attorney Sullivan's firm belief that basic fairness requires that prosecutors’ offices be willing to step back and review their work. 

The Conviction Integrity Committee (CIC) reports directly to the District Attorney and investigates claims of actual innocence or wrongful conviction by convicted defendants. The Review Process has been devised to minimize the impact of cognitive biases and respond to such claims in a fair, efficient, and comprehensive manner. 

The Committee reviews claims raised by motions filed under General Laws chapter 278A (post-conviction access to forensic and scientific analysis), by motions for new trial under Rule 30 of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure that include a claim of actual innocence, and through submissions to the office by a convicted defendant or an attorney who represented or currently represents a convicted defendant.

The CIC maintains an open-file discovery policy during its investigation.  Additionally, where we learn of new information after a conviction has entered, we broadly interpret our obligation under the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct to disclose new evidence that has come to light.  See Mass R. Prof. C. 3.8 (i) (“When, because of new, credible, and material evidence, a prosecutor knows that there is a reasonable likelihood that a convicted defendant did not commit an offense of which the defendant was convicted, the prosecutor shall within a reasonable time” notify the defendant and disclose the evidence.).

HOW TO SUBMIT A CASE FOR REVIEW
 

Click here for the form to submit a case for review. Please fill out the form as completely as possible, save it, then submit the form here to the Conviction Integrity Committee.

Alternatively the form can be printed and mailed to:
Conviction Integrity Committee
Northwestern District Attorney’s Office
One Gleason Plaza
Northampton, MA 01060

BRADY POLICY
 

The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office understands that our obligation to ensure fairness in prosecution includes the implementation of a comprehensive Brady policy.

To that end, the NWDA recognizes our duty to notify defense counsel about potentially exculpatory information regarding all witnesses, including law enforcement witnesses. At the same time, we are obligated to abide by the public records law as defined by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 66 and not disseminate information that is exempt from public disclosure (for example, Criminal Offender Record Information (“CORI”), personnel files, etc.).  

Our most recent guidance from the Supreme Judicial Court (In the Matter of a Grand Jury Investigation, 485 Mass. 641 (2000)) recommends that prosecutors “disclose any facts that would tend to exculpate the defendant or tend to diminish his or her culpability,” and, if unsure, “the prosecutor should err on the side of caution and disclose it.”  The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office follows this recommendation.  Significantly, in our determination not to keep a “Brady List” or release names of officers to the public, we also look to this case for its guidance to judges about whether potentially exculpatory information is actually exculpatory and admissible.  As the Court observed, certain conduct should be disclosed to the defendant in a criminal case, but “do[es] not bear on the integrity of police investigations, such as taking unauthorized sick time or inflating overtime hours.”

The NWDA does not maintain a so-called “Brady List.” Instead, we have a uniform system of information collection and disclosure as described in our protocol. We maintain an open line of communication with the police departments in our district.  Our Brady Committee reviews all allegations of law enforcement misconduct to determine whether disclosure is required.  If disclosure is required, we have an internal system in place to ensure that individual Assistant District Attorneys disclose the potentially exculpatory information to defense attorneys as required by law, uniformly and consistently, thereby ensuring and protecting defendants’ rights to a fair trial.  


“Our job as prosecutors is to keep our community safe by practicing law fairly and justly, and justice requires disclosure to defense counsel of Brady information.  My office takes this ethical duty seriously.”
District Attorney David E. Sullivan