LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles County's top prosecutor has created a unit, headed by three experienced prosecutors, to review credible claims of wrongful convictions by criminal defendants.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey said on Monday that the vast majority of the more than 71,000 felony cases filed by her office each year were upheld on appeal but that the unit was designed to catch those instances where the system failed.
"In a few instances, new evidence is discovered and, on rare occasions, mistakes are found," Lacey said in a written statement.
"Whenever we receive new credible information that may exonerate a person, the responsibility is on us, as prosecutors, to re-examine the facts and, if appropriate, to seek to vacate a wrongful conviction," she said.
Lacey said the unit would review claims of actual innocence based on newly discovered evidence, originating from inmates, lawyers or innocence projects and would not require the filing of formal court documents.
If an initial review determines the claim appears to have merit, a formal investigation will be opened, she said.
According to the District Attorney's Office, nearly two dozen prosecution agencies across the country have similar review programs, including those in Dallas, Manhattan and five counties in California.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)