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How an important wrongful conviction unit could be expanded

How an important wrongful conviction unit could be expanded

The Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit’s purpose is clear: to review potential wrongful convictions and rectify any mistakes. As the county prosecutor’s office points out, this approach should be the expected standard. So far, the results have been encouraging.

The small team had received 1,300 case review requests as of July 2020 and had done work on more than half of them. Now, the Conviction Integrity Unit’s future looks brighter than ever.

Should the Conviction Integrity Unit be expanded?

Kym Worthy, the Wayne County prosecutor, formed the Conviction Integrity Unit in 2017. The goal has always been to investigate claims of “actual innocence” by reviewing any “clear and convincing new evidence” in the case. So far, 20 wrongly convicted individuals have been exonerated, the freedom they were deprived finally given back to them.

If Worthy has her way, this type of important work will not just continue, but provide additional support for freed individuals.

According to a report from the Detroit News, Worthy wants to expand the Conviction Integrity Unit, which currently consists of five attorneys (two of which are part-time), an investigator and an administrative staffer. Worthy also wants to add what she calls “wrap-around services” for freed individuals. This would be support for things such as:

  • Housing assistance
  • Transportation
  • Free college
  • Other daily life needs

Worthy said the goal is to “make sure all of our exonerees are successful.”

Highlighting a recent exoneration

One of the most recent beneficiaries of the Conviction Integrity Unit is Eddie Khalil. He’d been convicted in the 2011 fatal shooting of a 51-year-old man and was sentenced to 14-25 years behind bars. In 2019, the Conviction Integrity Unit took up his case.

Wolfgang Mueller of Mueller Law Firm is one of the attorneys that represented Khalil during this review. The unit uncovered vital evidence that was not properly considered during the initial prosecution. After looking over this new information, a judge dismissed both charges against Khalil. In July of 2020, after more than seven years in prison, he walked free.

Now, he will have to rebuild his life. While that won’t be easy and will certainly come with challenges, it’s an opportunity he would not have had otherwise.