The Post-Conviction Justice Unit (“PCJU”) was created by District Attorney Bragg to review the Office’s closed cases. PCJU was named the Post-Conviction Justice Unit to embrace the fact that convictions are not always “right” or “wrongful.” Instead, there are multiple measures of justice that may be appropriate after a sentence is imposed.
PCJU’s mission has three main pillars:
1. Independent and impartial post-conviction reinvestigation done in collaboration with impacted individuals and their counsel to determine whether a conviction should be vacated or modified where there is no longer confidence in the outcome.
2. Services and support to exonerees, as well as victims and survivors who may have been deprived of closure.
3. Promoting conviction integrity in future prosecutions by advising the Office in best practices, including through new trainings and root cause analysis reports.
Who is eligible for PCJU Review?
PCJU review is available to anyone convicted of crimes in a case prosecuted by the Manhattan D.A.’s Office. This is true whether there was a trial or plea bargain, regardless of whether the person is currently in custody, represented by an attorney or has already sought an appeal from the court. PCJU does not review active cases.
How does PCJU Review Cases?
PCJU embraces two principles of reinvestigating closed cases: independence and collaboration. Although these two values may seem different, for PCJU they are not. PCJU’s independence comes from its existence as a separate unit within this office, apart from trial and appellate prosecutors. The prosecutors who handled the original trial or appeal do not participate in the reinvestigation.
At the same time, PCJU realizes the importance of a collaborative reinvestigation with impacted people and their counsel. PCJU embraces transparency in its reinvestigation process and will work in partnership with the applicant and their counsel to find the truth and achieve justice.
Not all applicants will be accepted for reinvestigation by PCJU, and not all reinvestigations will conclude with the relief the applicant requests. PCJU will screen cases as expeditiously as possible, and will communicate in writing with applicants about whether PCJU is reinvestigating their case.
How does PCJU prioritize which cases to review?
PCJU will prioritize cases where the applicant is convicted of a serious offense and is currently either in prison or on parole or post-release supervision.
Can I ask for PCJU to review instead of an appeal or motion?
The PCJU process is not a substitute for an appeal, habeas or post-conviction motion. A reinvestigation by PCJU does not extend any appellate timelines and does not toll (or pause) the Statute of Limitations. Because the PCJU process is collaborative, non-adversarial, and can be initiated at any time post-conviction, PCJU may decline to reinvestigate a case that is in active litigation.
What does PCJU do to prevent unjust convictions?
In addition to reviewing individual cases, PCJU leads initiatives to prevent future injustices. To that end, PCJU will, as appropriate, initiate systemic reviews of issues that cause wrongful convictions, such as unreliable witnesses or faulty forensic science tools, and conduct root cause analysis reports in cases where the Office vacates a person’s conviction. Finally, PCJU will engage internally with Assistant D.A.s, and externally with institutional partners and community members to educate and learn about the underlying causes of, and remedies to, unjust convictions.