Virginia Attorney General creating new unit focused on identifying, overturning wrongful convictions

Posted at 5:02 PM, Jan 14, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. - A new unit is being created within the Virginia Attorney General's office with a focus on identifying and overturning wrongful convictions.

Attorney General Mark Herring made the announcement Thursday.

"It will be an important tool for accountability and justice," Herring told News 3. "It will be a tool to safeguard against prosecutorial misconduct, institutional racism or bias, or mistakes that could cost an innocent person their freedom."

The "Conviction Integrity Unit" will eventually include three full-time attorneys and an investigator.

Herring says the in-house investigator will allow them to independently look at cases instead of relying on law enforcement agencies that may have been involved in the original investigation.

"If there's someone who believes that they were wrongly convicted, or there's new evidence discovered, there are court procedures where they can file a petition to ask for a determination as to whether that new evidence shows that they were in fact wrongly convicted, and what this unit will do is be able to take a look at those cases in-depth," Herring said.

New laws were passed in the General Assembly in 2020 that also make it easier for people to pursue their claims of wrongful conviction in court.

"Our goal as a Commonwealth always has to be justice and truth, not simply getting convictions," Herring said.