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Dawood appointed to Georgia’s Conviction Integrity Unit

February 2020
Dawood appointed to Georgia’s Conviction Integrity Unit

Across the world, thousands of people have spent time in prison for crimes they did not commit. Wrongful convictions result in the real culprit walking free. A number of factors might lead to a wrongful conviction: eyewitness misidentifications, poor crime scene visibility, bad police procedures, coerced false confessions from defendants, lying informants, and bad forensic science. When public defense lawyers are incompetent or prosecuting attorneys suppress evidence, wrongful convictions increase.

Nazeera Dawood quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

Organizations such as The Innocence Project have contributed to 2,542 exonerations across the U.S. since 1989. These people served an average of 14 years in prison for a crime they did not commit—22,540 years of human capital lost. To date, 367 people in the U.S. have been exonerated by DNA testing alone.

On Wednesday, January 8, 2020, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. officially announced the commencement of a Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), the first in the Southeastern United States in a DA’s Office. During the inaugural reception at Tyler Perry Studios, the first defendant to be released from prison as a result of the work of this CIU received a surprise job offer from Tyler Perry Studios.

This new unit will re-examine questionable convictions and help guard against future conviction error. Staffed with a dedicated Assistant District Attorney and investigator, the CIU’s primary charge is to review and investigate convicted offenders’ legitimate claims of innocence. Cases will be evaluated by a Review Board made up of five individuals including, In a symbolic gesture, DA Paul Howard handed the keys of a Fulton County jail cell to the five new members of the review board:
• Michael Lash, a citizen advocate,
• Richard Rose, President of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP,
Nazeera Dawood, a Fulton County leader and activist,
• Bettieanne Hart, a former Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Deputy District Attorney,
• Kate Boccia, Chief Executive Officer of the National Incarceration Association.

The following conviction cases in Fulton County will be evaluated by the staff and the review board:
• Claims of Actual Innocence Involving Provable Evidence,
• Forensic Testing of Relevant Evidence,
• Claims Involving Relevant Evidence Not Presented Prior to Conviction,
• Alleged Misconduct on Part of Prosecutor/Law Enforcement Officer,
• Sentence Modifications Due to Nature of Offense/Defendant’s Lack of Criminal History,
• Cases Determined to Warrant Review in the “Interest of Justice.”

The CIU is committed to ensuring that all submissions receive a thorough and equitable review. Anyone who wishes to submit an application for review to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit should do so by emailing convictionintegrity@fultoncountyga.gov.



Photo Gallery:
The Fulton County District Attorney's Office hosted the Inaugural Conviction Integrity Unit Reception on Wednesday, January 8, 2020, to officially introduce the historic unit to the Atlanta community. Photographs Courtesy of Mr. Horace Henry with Horace Henry Photography: 404-344-4835, hhenry5675@aol.com

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