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Northwestern Law Hosts Conviction Integrity Conference

Legal clinic to bring together top prosecutors to discuss increase in conviction integrity units

CHICAGO --- Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions will bring together top prosecutors from across the country to discuss the recent significant increase in “conviction integrity units” -- units within prosecutors’ offices that review claims of past wrongful convictions and develop best practices for avoiding them in the future.

The “Conviction Integrity Conference” will take place from 12:30 to 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, in the Law School’s Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Chicago Ave., in Chicago. Doors will open at noon.

The conference, co-presented with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, is free. However, pre-registration is required and is available here.

Just last week the Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) announced that Kenneth Thompson, the King’s County District Attorney (Brooklyn, New York) agreed to vacate the conviction of David McCallum, a man who has been incarcerated for the past 29 years for a murder he did not commit. The exoneration came after a review of the case by the office’s conviction review unit. Thompson and the head of his unit, Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan, will both be panelists at the conference.

“We see prosecutor conviction integrity units as the next wave of efforts to rectify and prevent wrongful convictions, and our conference will be the first public forum to explore this topic in depth,” said Karen Daniel, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions. “This will be a groundbreaking event in many respects.”

The conference will examine critically how conviction integrity units can and should function and will highlight the opportunities that exist for constructive collaboration among prosecutors’ offices, defense attorneys and legal organizations that engage in innocence work.  

Panelists will represent the viewpoints of the judiciary, the defense bar, experts, academia, victims and exonerees and will include prominent Illinois members of the criminal justice system including Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim, who will both participate in the panel “Conviction Integrity Units -- Purpose, Structure, Operations and Challenges.”

Presiding Judge Paul P. Biebel Jr. of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division, is among the panelists participating in the panel “Why We Need Conviction Integrity Review.” The panel “Common Causes of Wrongful Convictions” will conclude the conference. 

To see the complete agenda and for registration information, visit the Center on Wrongful Convictions online.

Three and one-half hours of CLE credit will be offered to Illinois attorneys.  

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