June 14, 2019
District Attorney Holley Carnright is announcing the formation of the Ulster County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, an initiative designed to investigate claims of actual innocence by those who have been convicted of a crime.
This District Attorney’s Office is comprised of some of the most professional, competent and dedicated prosecutors in the state. We handle thousands of cases every year and each one is given independent and careful consideration. Our staff of attorneys is governed by the desire to seek justice for those aggrieved by criminal conduct and to assure that only those with criminal culpability are prosecuted. Each member of this office assiduously upholds the highest ethical and moral standards required by this profession, and each of us is mindful of the considerable authority vested in us by virtue of the office we represent.
However, the criminal justice system is a system made up of people and, despite countless safeguards, checks and balances, is susceptible to the inherent flaws that exist within all human beings. This office has a duty to provide every safeguard to assure that only the guilty suffer the consequences of a criminal conviction. It is pursuant to this legal, ethical and moral mandate that we have created the Conviction Integrity Unit.
This unit will be comprised of law enforcement leaders, members of the criminal defense bar, and a community representative. Together this committee will investigate any convictions that raise a genuine issue of actual innocence. Where such a case presents, it will be re-evaluated with every benefit of modern science and technology.
The Conviction Integrity Unit will operate by accepting submissions and referrals from the legal community and directly from those who aver that they are actually innocent of a crime for which they have been convicted. The submission will be evaluated by the Unit Coordinator who will answer directly to the District Attorney and the Committee as a whole. If a legitimate issue of innocence is presented, the case will be referred to the entire Committee for a thorough evaluation. If recommended, a detailed plan of action will be developed which could include re-opening the case, reinvestigating the entire matter, and submitting evidence for forensic testing.
The Committee will also meet biannually to review all submissions, including those found without merit, as an additional protective measure.
The following members will serve on the Conviction Integrity Unit: From the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office, District Attorney Holley Carnright, Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Kavanagh, Special Victims Bureau Chief Katherine Van Loan, Senior Assistant District Attorney Gerard Van Loan, Senior Assistant District Attorney Clifford Owens. Law enforcement leaders on the committee are Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa, and City of Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti. The Criminal Defense Bar is represented by attorney Thomas Melanson, Esq. and attorney Cappy Weiner, Esq. Community Activist Theresa Widmann has also graciously agreed to lend her considerable talents to the committee.