Phila. D.A.’s Office announces creation of Conviction Review Unit

By Jon Campisi | Apr 18, 2014

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced this week the

creation of a new Conviction Review Unit that will involve reviewing and re-investigating what his office calls “legitimate” post-conviction claims of new evidence and declarations of innocence in accordance with Pennsylvania’s Rules of Criminal Procedure.

The Conviction Review Unit will be run by veteran Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson, a prosecutor Williams calls the “perfect person to supervise this unit.”

“He was referred to as the bulldog in homicide courtrooms for good reason,” Williams said of Gilson in a statement. “Not only is he a well-respected prosecutor, his investigative techniques and knowledge of the law are above reproach.”

The CRU will be handling about 40 cases per month, which translates to roughly 500 cases annually.

Of those cases that are reviewed, the expectation is that only about three or four per year will end in some sort of post-conviction relief, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Williams said the new unit is designed to balance his office’s “interest in investigating good faith claims of innocence with the obligation to defend valid convictions.

“This is the right thing to do,” Williams stated. “It is my job to uphold justice, but let’s be clear this is not a get out of prison free card for convicted felons.

“While we are looking at these cases with an open mind, it does not mean that we will agree with all or any new claims of innocence and or evidence,” he continued. “Mr. Gilson will also be working to protect valid verdicts of guilt.”

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