Wrongful Conviction Unit FAQs
The Wrongful Conviction Unit (WCU) is dedicated to the release of indigent Iowa inmates who are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. The Wrongful Conviction Unit is focused on post-conviction litigation for inmates claiming factual innocence.
We provide our services to applicants free of charge. Statutorily, the court may order you to pay attorney fees. As a matter of policy, will always seek to waive any court-ordered fee payment for all legal proceedings we initiate on behalf of your innocence claim.
We review cases where the applicant claims to be actually innocent of the crime(s) for which the person is convicted. In order to challenge a conviction, there must be substantial new evidence to support a claim of innocence. This newly discovered evidence could be physical evidence that was not previously subjected to forensic examination, such as DNA testing. Newly discovered evidence may also include non-physical evidence, such as testimony from an eyewitness who was previously unknown or a recantation from a victim or witness, if such a recantation is supported by other new evidence. They investigate cases where there is a substantial chance new evidence can be discovered.
We are unable to represent all applicants who apply; we are only able to become involved in a select number of cases. We cannot help if any of the following are true: You are currently awaiting trial or are still pursuing your direct appeal. You are not claiming actual innocence to the case for which you seek assistance. You have seven years or less left to serve on the incarceration portion of your sentence. You played a minor role in the crime. You feel you should have been convicted of a different crime. You acted in self-defense. You claim the defense of insanity or intoxication. You were convicted of sexual assault for an encounter that you say was consensual. There is no newly discovered evidence.
Our Intake Staff reviews each application to determine if it meets certain basic program criteria. After our Intake Staff makes their initial determination, we will write to you and inform you whether or not you will be placed on our waiting list.
If our Intake Staff decides that your case warrants further review, we will place your case on our waitlist to be screened. Please know that if your case is placed on the waitlist, we do not agree to do anything other than review your case for potential meritorious claims of actual innocence. During this time, intake staff or law students will contact you and/or other investigating or state agencies to collect documents related to your case. Such documents may include transcripts, lab reports, police reports, etc. Please do not send documents unless requested to by us. If at any time during this process you have upcoming court dates or deadlines, we are unable to assist you with these matters.
Eventually, the cases on our waitlist will be assigned to attorneys or law students, working under the supervision of a project attorney, to be screened. The screening is an in-depth review of your case documents in which the reviewer reads and digests what happened in a case and produces a report with their findings.
After the screening process has been finished and the results reviewed by the legal director, a determination will be made if investigation is warranted. We investigate cases where there is a substantial chance new evidence can be discovered. If it is determined that your case merits investigation, it will first go on our investigation waitlist. When your case is moved to active investigation, you will be contacted and given specifics regarding what activities we agree and do not agree to perform on your behalf.