In an unusual action, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit blames a specific prosecutor for errors. A candidate for the DA job has asked for a review of how Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has handled bungled cases.
When the Brooklyn district attorney’s office asked a judge to dismiss the guilty verdict of a man who had been wrongfully convicted of murder, prosecutors did something they rarely do: hold someone responsible for bungling the case, reports the New York Times. Mark Hale, chief of the Conviction Review Unit (CRU), announced in court that the wronged defendant, Jabbar Washington, had spent 20 years in prison because of grievous errors at his trial. Hale said the prosecutor who had overseen the trial intentionally withheld evidence and coaxed a witness into giving testimony that was purposefully misleading.
Assigning blame in public doesn’t happen often. In the last three years, the CRU in Brooklyn has asked judges 23 times to free defendants who should not be in prison, making it the busiest and most effective unit of its kind in New York State. Only in a handful of the cases have lawyers in the unit held anyone accountable. With a decisive Democratic primary election for Brooklyn district attorney set for September, the question of who, if anyone, in the criminal justice system has paid a price for the numerous wrongful convictions in the borough has become a political issue. Ama Dwimoh, one of six challengers seeking to defeat Eric Gonzalez, the acting district attorney, has called for a sweeping review of how Gonzalez has handled bungled cases. Dwimoh, who once worked in the district attorney’s office, accused her former employer of never holding anyone accountable for the many botched convictions it has helped overturn.