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Are CIU's the Answer to Overturning Wrongful Convictions?

Since the first Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) was established in Dallas in 2007, the country has seen a rise in the establishment of these bodies. CIUs are intended to be an independent reviewer of previous cases that may be wrongful convictions.

In its 2016 study, the National Registry of Exonerations reported that the number of exonerations in U.S. states and territories has doubled since 2011. Convictions have been overturned for:

  • False confessions
  • Official misconduct
  • Cases where defendants made a false confession
  • Cases where it was determined no crime had occurred

As an example, the Brooklyn CIU, established in 2011, recently overturned the 1998 conviction of Vanessa Gathers in the 1991 robbery & assault death of Michael Shaw. Gathers served a ten-year prison sentence followed by five years on parole after Detective Louis Scarcella elicited a false confession (the only evidence put forth against Gathers). Scarcella has since been linked to similar cases, many of them now under scrutiny.

The proliferation of CIUs raises questions about their role in the judicial system. While many feel CIUs are important in the view of justice being served, others question the need for them and their ability to be effective. Some of the issues raised include:

  • Should taxpayers have to pay for these bodies-considering that the legal mistakes CIUs aim to correct are already funded by taxpayer dollars-or should the state bear the cost?
  • Can CIUs remain independent id they are linked to the prosecuting offices that they are investigating?

Whether CIUs are a necessary component of the legal system or an indicator that changes to that system are in order, they are a rising trend to be considered.

If you have experienced a miscarriage of justice, an experienced post-conviction relief attorney can help you determine if you may be eligible to have your case tried again.


Ferner, Matt (2014, February 24).These Panels Could Be The Best Hope For Innocent Victims Of The Criminal Justice System. Retrieved March 9, 2016, from

Sanvail, W. (2012, September 18). Conviction Integrity Units: Righting the Wrongs or a Waste of Time? Innocence Project of Florida. Retrieved March 09, 2016, from

The National Registry of Exonerations - EXONERATIONS IN 2015. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2016, from

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