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“Conviction Integrity Unit” has become a brand name that has good public relations value for an elected official. But what does it really mean? Is it just a fashion accessory, a flashy but empty appellation intended to convey the idea that the office is extremely serious about correcting wrongful convictions and holding its own members accountable for errors or acts of misconduct, but really is not? Is conviction integrity nothing more than a passing fad, a nebulous slogan without real meaning that is good for propaganda purposes, but will not bring about any serious change in the way business is done in American criminal justice system?

Or does the interest in “conviction integrity” signal something qualitatively different: a movement toward a post-conviction non-adversarial process for reinvestigating potential miscarriages of justice, which involves prosecutors, innocence organizations, and defense lawyers working together in a joint search for the truth; a recognition of ethical and ultimately constitutional obligations to disclose material evidence of innocence post-conviction; and an adoption of procedures, such as “root cause analysis” and “sentinel review,” that are hallmarks of a “just culture” approach to organizational management?

The jury is plainly out on those questions. This article provides a history explaining how CIUs evolved, sets forth best practices for putting together a CIU in a granular fashion relying on both practical observations and learning from cognitive science. It is written from the point of view of a "participant observer" since the author has been involved in the development of many CIUs and worked with them on cases that resulted in exoneration's.

Publication Date

Spring 2017




Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law

First Page



Conviction Integrity, Conviction Review, sentinel review, Innocence Project, Innocence Movement, ABA Rules 3.8(g) and (h), actual innocence, cognitive bias


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Law | Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility | Legal Profession | Medical Jurisprudence


David H. Bodiker Lecture on Criminal Justice