Feb 19, 2016

Alabama Lawmakers Propose Conviction Integrity Unit

Alabama, that's Al . a . bama has introduced legislation to review the integrity of felony convictions.

Reports Tim Lockette of the Anniston Star from Montgomery: A Republican member of the Alabama State Senate, (Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery), wants to create an Innocence Inquiry Commission to review felony convictions.

Time for my county, Dane County, to catch up to reformist Republican lawmakers in Alabama. Indeed, statewide, especially Milwaukee and Dane County, the need for conviction integrity units is clear, (Mal Contends).

Lots of talk behind the scenes among jurists of the necessity of an independent Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) in Dane County enacted by the Dane County Board of Supervisors.

See Conviction Integrity Units: Vanguard of Criminal Justice Reform and An Epidemic of Prosecutor Misconduct, and the Innocence Project's Conviction Integrity Unit Best Practices for white papers.

Consider the cases from Dane County and the wrongful convictions such as Penny Brummer, and Forest Shomberg, and Ralph Armstrong, and Anthony Hicks, and Audrey Edmunds. These people had decades taken from the lives, and the toll on their families is incalculable.

An independent Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) analyzing and providing recommendations to the District Attorney's office could have taken years off their wrongful sentences and returned these innocents to their families. CIU recommends X because of Y, Z. Easy to contemplate how facts and science would reveal the rush to judgement and tunnel vision all too common in law enforcement.

Consider Penny Brummer.

Any examination of the integrity of the 1994 conviction of Penny Brummer would lead to the exoneration of Ms. Brummer as there is literally no case against Brummer who was convicted anyway by a jury, most of whom were admitted homophobes.

If you have not signed the petition calling for a new trial, please do.

An observer of Ms. Brummer's case remarked if Wisconsin had a death penalty, the resulting necessary scrutiny of Brummer's case would have already led to her exoneration. Instead Brummer has fallen through the cracks of the criminal justice system, like an untold number of others.

Consider Dane County.

With the analytical resources available in the Dane County citizenry, staffing a Conviction Integrity Unit with retired jurists, scholars, students, journalists, intellectuals from labor, business and myriad other segments of the community, a low-cost check on the criminal justice system could result in avoiding tragedy. Finding CIU staff who would happily work for a stipend would be easy.

We must ask ourselves the question: How cheap are lives in Dane County?

"There is no crueler tyranny than that which is exercised under cover of law, and with the colors of justice ... ."
 - U.S. v. Jannotti, 673 F.2d 578, 614 (3d Cir. 1982)

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