Brooklyn County is leading New York State in inmate exonerations for 2014 thus far, the New York Daily News reports.
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Of the 11 inmates cleared of criminal wrongdoing this year, Kings County has eight of them, all spearheaded by new boro D.A. Kenneth Thompson’s 13-person team. Thompson has made exonerations one of his offce’s key focuses.
“I am determined to get to the bottom of these cases,” Thompson, who defeated longtime D.A. Charles Hynes in last year’s city elections, told the Daily News. Each of the men cleared had spent two decades behind bars.
To that end, he has made great use of his Conviction Review Unit, which is currently looking at 57 questionable homicide prosecutions. The unit has cleared four defendants so far, Thompson added.
D.A.’s in the other boros say they don’t plan on launching widescale exoneration units. Though his predecessor started the unit, Thompson has expanded it. He allocated $1.1 million for the unit and plans to broaden its focus once its caseload decreases. Legal authorities say they are impressed by his work.
“It’s absolutely unprecedented,” said Rob Warren, director at the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University. “I hope it lives up to the expectations and becomes a model to the nation.”
“We hope that by the end of this review, we can learn some lessons and shed some light on how these cases come about,” Thompson added.
According to experts, the state’s high number of wrongful convictions stems from the mass homicides from the crack epidemic of the 1980s.
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