The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office is officially accepting conviction review petitions as part of its new Conviction Integrity Unit.
Citizens seeking review of an allegedly wrongful conviction can submit a petition to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office online or by U.S. mail. Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced the creation of the Conviction Integrity Unit late last year, pledging to “make a vigorous effort to identify and investigate cases that resulted in wrongful convictions.”
“As always, the goal of our office is to seek justice. And sometimes that means first looking back, in order to move our community forward,” Mears said in a statement. “I am confident that this new unit will work to uncover historical injustices and will make sure that we are doing everything in our power to prevent such wrongdoings with devastating impacts to our community.”
Comprised of two former defense attorneys, an investigator and support staff, the CIU is an independent section of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and is the first of its kind in the state.
Members of the unit will review claims to determine whether a petitioner is entitled to the requested relief. Also, an independent review panel consisting of community members and outside legal experts will provide additional analysis and evaluation of each case under review.
CIU investigations are not part of a court proceeding, Mears’ office noted. That means its decisions and recommendations do not prevent claimants from raising the same innocence claims in other forums such as petitions for post-conviction relief.
In addition to conviction reviews, the new unit will make recommendations about improvements to training, investigations and prosecution practices to ensure the integrity of future convictions. Mears previously told Indiana Lawyer that he hoped the launch of the CIU would be an “olive branch” to community members who question the integrity of the local criminal justice system.
“When I have conversations with the community, one of the things that is oftentimes pointed out to me is that there are systemic issues and injustices that occur in the criminal justice system,” Mears told IL in December. “We have tried to be aggressive to right those wrongs in the present day and in the future, but if I am going to acknowledge that there are systemic issues, I think that also means I have a responsibility to look backward and in the past to see what we can do to rip out those injustices.”
Citizens who do not have access to the CIU website can mail their petitions for review of a conviction to Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Attn: Conviction Integrity Unit, 251 E. Ohio St., Suite 160, Indianapolis, IN 46204.