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(DES MOINES) – Today, during the Administration’s weekly press conference, Gov. Terry Branstad and State Public Defender Adam Gregg announced the creation of the Wrongful Conviction Division at the Office of the State Public Defender. The Wrongful Conviction Division will systematically review and identify potential cases involving wrongful convictions and pursue available legal remedies.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently admitted to serious errors in its testimony in cases involving hair comparison analysis. The Wrongful Conviction Division is partnering with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Innocence Project of Iowa, and the Midwest Innocence Project to determine whether similar errors have occurred in Iowa cases. If such errors are identified, the Wrongful Conviction Division will pursue existing legal remedies, such as post-conviction relief.
“In Iowa, we have great confidence in our criminal justice system,” said Branstad. “However, even in a well-regarded system, we know issues can arise. The creation of the Wrongful Conviction Division within the State Public Defender’s Office, and its collaboration with the Division of Criminal Investigation and existing innocence organizations, will help us ensure that our criminal justice system gets it right.”
The Wrongful Conviction Division will be led by Audrey McGinn, formerly of the California Innocence Project. During her time at the California Innocence Project, McGinn had a hand in seven exonerations, and helped found ten innocence projects throughout Latin America. Her position was created by repurposing a vacant full time employee position, using existing appropriated funding.
Recognizing a shared interest in exonerating Iowa residents convicted of crimes they did not commit, The Wrongful Conviction Division of the Office of the State Public Defender (SPD), the Innocence Project of Iowa (IPI), and the Midwest Innocence Project (MIP) have entered into a collaborative agreement to further promote justice and secure exonerations within Iowa. Together, these organizations will identify, investigate, and litigate cases of individuals who are claiming factual innocence of the crimes for which they were convicted.
Under this agreement, they will jointly conduct the review process of an inmate’s claim of innocence. An inmate may fill out the initial intake questionnaire, located here, and mail to the MIP for further review by the group. For the cases where our joint investigation and review reveals proof of the inmate’s innocence, experienced attorneys from the SPD, IPI, and MIP will determine potential avenues for post-conviction relief.
Together, the SPD, MIP, and IPI will combine efforts to focus on investigating Iowa cases and ensure the integrity of the Iowa criminal justice system.
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