Creation of unit to review wrongful-conviction claims the right move

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) applauds Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s efforts to ensure the integrity of our convictions. We especially recognize the importance of this new program, because our sacred duties as prosecutors do not end when we convict the guilty. Our goal is to do justice. This requires review of new evidence that may exonerate those previously convicted. It requires us to make sure that proper procedures were observed during the trial process. Yet, the integrity of this review process requires people who have an obligation to seek the truth rather than those who seek to further an agenda or to enrich themselves.

Our hope is that these internal reviews will ensure that witnesses are not pressured to recant their testimony, that evidence is not fabricated, and that the entire record will be reviewed and not simply selected pieces of evidence that are taken out of context. Our hope is based upon the ethical requirements of a prosecutor-which require us to seek the truth rather than simply advocate for one side-that these reviews will be balanced, fair, and accountable.

Who better to conduct these reviews than those whose goal is to seek the truth? The public prosecutor sits in the best position to review these cases, because our job requires impartiality. When defense attorneys are reviewing prior cases, they have an ethical duty to represent their client and gain his release-no matter how lofty sounding the name of the organization. This duty of a defense attorney does not afford the luxury of reviewing evidence in an impartial fashion. It requires a partisan bent.

This is why Ms. Lacey’s desire to create an impartial, independent, fact driven review unit is a worthy project. This is why the ADDA supports such an effort.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.