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Urges qualified candidates to apply to help shape DOJ’s efforts from the ground up
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the establishment of the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) first-ever Post-Conviction Justice Unit (PCJU). The new unit, once fully staffed, will work with broad discretion — in partnership with local district attorneys — to conduct investigations and reviews aimed at resolving wrongful or improper criminal convictions, including matters where there may be evidence of significant integrity issues, and to identify cases that may be suitable for potential resentencing. The unit will also provide statewide leadership to support best practices across California. Building on DOJ’s commitment to transparency and accountability, PCJU will work to support integrity in the criminal legal system and seek to remedy cases where there have been miscarriages of justice.
“All across California, prosecutors and law enforcement stand united in the pursuit of truth and justice,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We fight each and every day to protect our communities and hold those who break the law accountable. Yet, despite our best efforts, we know our criminal legal system is not infallible. Whether it’s as a result of bias, changes in forensics, or any other issue, our system is not foolproof and we must make every effort to ensure the integrity of prosecutions in our state. As part of our pursuit of justice, I’m proud to launch the first-ever Post-Conviction Justice Unit within the California Department of Justice. 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.”
There is a growing effort among prosecutorial offices in California and across the country to establish and operate specialized units, often known as conviction integrity units, to seek justice, reduce harm, and increase trust in the criminal legal system through post-conviction investigations and reviews of individual criminal cases. These units typically work to identify and address wrongful convictions — often by reviewing new credible information that may exonerate someone previously convicted of a crime — or take other actions within the bounds of the law to remedy potential injustices. While the court system provides important avenues through the appellate process to address claims of injustice, conviction integrity units provide prosecutors an additional opportunity to proactively address such issues and, ultimately, ensure greater accuracy and legitimacy for prosecutorial conduct. Taking steps to support prosecutorial integrity is a critical part of pursuing justice and reflects the recognition that new evidence may arise, past mistakes can be uncovered, and sentencing standards may change. Whether issues arise as a result of new exculpatory information or advancements in forensic science, it is incumbent on prosecutors to make good faith efforts to correct injustice.
PCJU will be initially staffed by two Deputy Attorneys General within the Criminal Law Division who will build on existing resources within DOJ. Subject to the discretion of the Attorney General, the new attorneys — building on initial work already underway at DOJ — will be empowered to establish formal, finalized protocols and standards prior to taking external case review referrals. Among other things, the deputies will support efforts to launch PCJU and to:
For those who are interested, DOJ is now hiring and seeking qualified candidates to help shape the state’s PCJU from the ground up. Attorney General Bonta urges people of all backgrounds to consider a career at DOJ and learn more about joining the team here: https://oag.ca.gov/careers. The PCJU job openings are available here.