California AG Rob Bonto Creates Wrongful Convictions Team
Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Friday the creation of the California Department of Justice’s first-ever team dedicated to identifying and working to overturn wrongful convictions.
The DOJ’s new Post-Conviction Justice Unit joins a growing movement among prosecutors’ offices across the country using new exculpatory information or advancements in forensic science to review claims of wrongful conviction or innocence. Many local district attorney offices across the state, including in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Napa counties, already have similar divisions in place.
That’s in addition to a handful of Innocence Project nonprofit organizations across the state also dedicated to exonerating innocent prisoners and reforming the criminal justice system.
“All across California, prosecutors and law enforcement stand united in the pursuit of truth and justice,” Bonta said in a statement. “While this is only a beginning, it represents a critical step forward for further fostering a culture of integrity and transparency that supports trust in the law.”
Bonta said the new division will give his office an additional avenue to address claims of injustice in addition to the typical appellate process. The state’s new unit will also identify cases handled by the DOJ or local district attorneys that may warrant resentencing.
The division will be initially led by two Deputy Attorneys General within the Criminal Law Division. It was not immediately clear how much funding DOJ would set aside for the unit.
The unit’s creation comes amid ethical questions about Bonta’s wife, Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, D- Alameda, recently being appointed to lead a budget subcommittee that oversees his department. The DOJ has an annual budget of about $1.2 billion.
The revelation, first reported by Sacramento’s NBC affiliate KCRA, has led to calls for Assemblywoman Bonta to step down from her subcommittee assignment. The committee is scheduled to discuss the Department of Justice’s budget on March 27.
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