Cuyahoga County

Conviction Integrity Unit

All prosecutors want those truly guilty of a crime to be held accountable. No ethical prosecutor wants an innocent person to be wrongfully convicted. While the trial and appellate process contain important safeguards for those accused of a crime, we recognize that the criminal justice system is a human institution and, therefore, is not perfect.

As a result, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office established the Conviction Integrity Unit in 2014 to investigate wrongful conviction claims. Currently, the CIU is a division of the newly created Civil Rights Unit. The Conviction Integrity Unit serves to safeguard the public and to fulfill our office’s ethical duty to diligently seek justice.

Purpose of the Conviction Integrity Unit

The mission of the Conviction Integrity Unit is to review legitimate claims of innocence or other compelling claims that warrant review (based upon compelling evidence that such review is necessary in the pursuit of truth and justice). The CIU is composed of a Conviction Integrity Unit Chief, a Conviction Integrity Unit Coordinator, a Conviction Integrity Board and an Independent Review Panel (IRP). The Chief and the Coordinator organize the work of the CIU and lead all case investigations that present a credible claim of actual innocence or a claim that compelling evidence demands the CIU’s review. The CIU Board consists of a combination Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys and at least one (1) outside volunteer attorney. The Independent Review Panel is comprised of a minimum of four (4) volunteer members who are completely independent of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. The IRP members may include well respected volunteers from the community including, but not limited to, accomplished outside attorneys, community leaders, civic leaders, residents, business leaders, clergy, and/or legal scholars/experts. The significance of having multiple independent volunteer members from outside of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office is so that the process is fundamentally fair, transparent to both the legal community and the community at large, and hopefully to ensure that justice is steadfastly pursued and achieved during the entire review process. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor makes the final decision on applicant’s claim and, such decision, is final and not subject to further review or appeal.

Requirements for Consideration by CIU

In order for the Conviction Integrity Unit to conduct a preliminary review of a conviction, applicants making a claim of innocence or a compelling claim must meet the following prerequisites:

  • The conviction must have been in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court; 
  • The applicant must currently be a living person presenting his or her claim of innocence or an otherwise compelling claim; 
  • There must be a claim of actual innocence or otherwise compelling claim and not solely a legal issue (previously raised and/or could have been raised at trial on during the appellate process); 
  • New and credible evidence of innocence must exist; 
  • The claim must not be frivolous; and
  • The applicant must sign a written “limited” waiver of certain procedural safeguards and privileges, agrees to cooperate with the CIU, and agrees to provide full disclosure regarding all requirements of the Conviction Integrity Unit.

Review Process

Requests for review must be submitted in writing to the Conviction Integrity Unit and shall include the applicant’s name, case number, and evidence of innocence or evidence of an otherwise compelling claim.

If the review process determines that someone has been wrongfully convicted, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office will file a motion or petition the Court to vacate the conviction on its own or join in with the applicant’s legal representative to have the conviction vacated. The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court will decide the merits of applicant’s claim(s).
Note: If the applicant is represented by legal counsel, all communication with the Conviction Integrity Unit must be through applicant’s counsel.

Application and Other Resources

For more information on the Conviction Integrity Unit, contact us at (216) 443-7800, or click on the links below.