Alvarez: New unit will prevent wrongful convictions

February 3, 2012

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(WBEZ/Kate Dries)
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez spokes during a recent interview in WBEZ's studios.

Exonerations are not uncommon occurences here in Chicago, so Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez says she's started a new unit in her office to deal with the problem.  It's called the Conviction Integrity Unit.

"Based on what we've been dealing with in these last couple of years and also because of DNA and the fact that 30 years ago we could not do what we do today, we should be able to work up these cases, and look at these cases and re-evaluate them more efficiently," Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the unit will be staffed by three attorneys, two investigators and a victim and witness specialist. They'll focus on cases in which the defendant is claiming innocence.

She said they'll pay particular attention to problem areas - cases where there's only one eyewitness, or where there's a confession but little or no supporting evidence. In the last couple of months, Alvarez's office has dropped charges against nine men who were convicted in the 1990s based on confessions they gave as teenagers.