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Advisory Commission on Wrongful Convictions

Mission Statement
A well functioning criminal justice system strives to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The imprisonment of innocent persons perverts this purpose, undermining the confidence of the public, destroying the lives and families of the wrongly convicted, falsely reassuring crime victims, and allowing the real perpetrators the freedom to commit further crimes. The Connecticut Advisory Commission on Wrongful Convictions’ central mission is to promote the appropriate measures to prevent the conviction of innocent persons.

In implementing its mission, the Commission will have three primary goals. First, it will provide a forum for dialogue, research, and education regarding the causes of wrongful conviction. Second, it will suggest best practices for law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges that will decrease the possibility of convicting an innocent person, thereby helping to ensure the conviction only of the guilty. Third, the Commission will serve as an effective mechanism to satisfy the public’s desire that something meaningful be done when cases of wrongful conviction become known. This mechanism is intended to operate as an alternative to the possibility of a reflexive response culminating in a legislative mandate.
 

History and Purpose
The Connecticut Advisory Commission on Wrongful Convictions was created by statute in 2003. The language of the statute provides that the Commission shall have the power to review “any case involving a wrongful conviction and recommend reforms to lessen the likelihood of a similar wrongful conviction occurring in the future.”

Among the reasons for the creation of the Commission was the case of a man wrongly incarcerated who came before the legislature to seek relief. The legislature created the Commission to investigate such cases to discover what went wrong and suggest how the problems discovered can be addressed. The Commission will allow the State to learn from and respond to a wrongful conviction with expert investigation, careful consideration, and targeted measures, thereby assuring the wrongly convicted and the public that the State is doing everything in its power to reduce the chance of another wrongful conviction.

Although there are few known cases of wrongful conviction in Connecticut, recent nationwide data reveals that innocent persons are convicted at a higher rate than previously assumed. DNA analysis has shown that more than 140 innocent persons have been wrongly convicted in the United States. In Illinois, thirteen cases of wrongful conviction on death row led to a moratorium on the death penalty.

The Connecticut legislature has created the Commission, not only to address wrongful convictions once they have occurred, but also to research and suggest practices to prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place.

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Objectives
The primary objective of the Connecticut Advisory Commission on Wrongful Convictions is to make recommendations that will reduce or eliminate the possibility of the conviction of an innocent person in the State of Connecticut. It is anticipated that the Commission will fulfill this objective by identifying the main causes of wrongful conviction, studying existing research on these causes, commissioning additional research as the Commission deems necessary, reviewing cases of wrongful conviction, reviewing additional cases that will assist the Commission in understanding the causes of wrongful conviction, and recommending best practices to appropriate constituencies. By examining the issue of wrongful convictions on a systemic level, the Commission will serve as an alternative to a reflexive response if and when an innocent person is found to have been wrongly convicted in Connecticut. By reducing the possibility of a wrongful conviction, the Commission’s primary objective will also increase the reliable conviction of the guilty and positively impact public trust and confidence in the State’s criminal justice system. In addition, it is anticipated that implementing the Commission’s recommendations will decrease the overall cost of the prosecution, trial, and appeal processes.

Specific Commission objectives are:

  1. To identify and study the most common causes of wrongful conviction, both in Connecticut and nationally.
  2. To educate the constituencies represented by Commission members, and to educate the public, regarding causes of wrongful conviction.
  3. To provide a forum for open and productive dialogue between Commission members regarding causes of wrongful conviction.
  4. To identify current Connecticut procedures implicated by causes of wrongful conviction, and to recommend best practices in the form of procedural, administrative, or statutory changes, or education and training.
  5. To commission research on the issues surrounding wrongful conviction, as the Commission deems necessary.
  6. To consider potential implementation plans, cost implications, and the impact on conviction of the guilty for each recommended best practice.
  7. To issue reports recommending solutions for causes of wrongful conviction identified, including recommended implementation plans, cost implications, and potential impact on the conviction of the guilty, per § 54-102g(8)(c) of the general statutes.
  8. At the Commission’s discretion, to conduct investigations to determine the cause or causes of individual cases of wrongful conviction in the State of Connecticut, as authorized by § 54-102g(8)(b) of the general statutes.
  9. At the Commission’s discretion, to review additional cases that will assist the Commission in understanding the causes of wrongful conviction.

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Rules of Procedure

Meetings:

  1. The Commission shall meet at least once quarterly.
  2. The Commission shall meet at such time and place as determined by the Chief Court Administrator, announced at least one month in advance of meetings, with notice provided to each member. Such notice shall identify any issues requiring a vote of the Commission.
  3. To the extent possible, meetings will take place during times most convenient to the Commission members.
  4. At all meetings, half of the total membership of the Commission shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business. Voting may be in person, by proxy, by letter, or by telephone.
  5. When the Commission sees fit to make a decision by vote, a simple majority of the members voting shall be sufficient to ratify the vote. The numerical record of the vote shall be recorded and included for each recommendation made by the Commission. The goal in all matters, however, shall be to reach consensus.
  6. Written minutes of all meetings shall be taken by a designee of the Chief Court Administrator and distributed to Commission members.

Research:

  1. The Commission may instruct the faculty and student representatives mentioned in § 54-102g(8)(a) of the general statutes to provide any research materials they deem necessary for the completion of their objectives. Additionally, the Commission may invite experts to provide further assistance.
  2. All research conducted by or at the request of the Commission shall be organized and consolidated for future reference.

Study and Investigation:

  1. Studies and surveys of Connecticut practices, as well as the practices of other jurisdictions, may be conducted as a part of the Commission’s work.
  2. Additionally, studies and surveys of the issues surrounding wrongful convictions may be conducted as a part of the Commission’s work.
  3. The practices and issues to be studied shall be determined by the Commission, and may include, but are not limited to: eyewitness identification procedures, standards for the use of eyewitness identifications in court, DNA evidence and testing, false confessions, discovery and disclosure of evidence, informant and accomplice testimony, law enforcement and attorney investigation procedures, rules of professional conduct, compensation for the wrongly convicted, and the post-conviction review of claims of actual innocence.
  4. The Commission may conduct an investigation to determine the cause or causes of a wrongful conviction in the State of Connecticut, as authorized by § 54-102g(8)(b) of the general statutes. The Committee shall adopt whatever rules of procedure it deems necessary for the initiation and performance of such an investigation.
  5. After the completion of a review of relevant topics, an investigation into a wrongful conviction, or at any other time the Commission may establish, the Commission shall issue a report of its findings and recommendations in accordance with § 54-102g(8)(c) of the general statutes.

Miscellaneous:

  1. The Commission may hereafter adopt or modify any rules of procedure necessary to carry out its objectives.


Commission Composition

Section 54-102g(a) of the general statutes states that the Commission’s membership shall consist of:

  1. the Chief Court Administrator, who serves as the Chair of the Commission;
  2. the Chief State’s Attorney, the Chief Public Defender, the Victim Advocate, or their designees;
  3. representatives from the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association and the Connecticut Bar Association;
  4. representatives from one or more law schools in this state and one or more institutions of higher education in this state that offer undergraduate programs in criminal justice and forensic science.
  5. other members appointed by the Chief Court Administrator.

These individuals will bring to the Commission differing areas of expertise and together will enable the Commission to fulfill its mission and objectives. Nevertheless, the Chief Court Administrator or other members of the Commission may decide that the Commission would benefit from the representation of another area of expertise either in general or in relation to a specific area of discussion. In this case, the Chief Court Administrator may at his or her discretion appoint further permanent members of the Commission or invite guests to attend particular meetings. Likewise, the Chief Court Administrator may, at the initiative of Commission members or of the schools themselves, appoint further representatives from educational institutions.

With the exception of the Chief Court Administrator, individual members of the Commission may rotate from time to time as their roles within their organizations change, or as they decide that a different designee or representative from their organization would be a more suitable member. It is hoped, nevertheless, that attendance at the meetings will be fairly consistent over time so as to preserve institutional memory and aid in the accomplishment of the Commission’s objectives.

It is further hoped that, to the extent possible, the members of the Commission will reflect the racial, ethnic, geographical, municipal, and socioeconomic diversity of the State, in part because some of its findings are likely to concern the way these kinds of diversity may impact the possibility of a wrongful conviction.


Funding
The Commission shall rely upon the resources of existing criminal justice agencies, where appropriate, to complete its work. Affiliated institutions of higher education and law schools may pursue private and public grants to assist the Commission in any research, study or investigation.

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Committee Members
  • Assistant Professor James M. Adcock
    Department of Criminal Justice
    University of New Haven
  • Attorney James W. Bergenn
    Shipman, Goodwin, LLP
  • Honorable Patrick L. Carroll, III, Chairperson
    Deputy Chief Court Administrator
    Connecticut Judicial Branch
  • Attorney Michelle Cruz
    Office of the Victim Advocate
  • State’s Attorney Michael Dearington
    New Haven Superior Court
  • Attorney Brett Dignam, Clinical Professor of Law and Supervising Attorney
    Yale Law School
  • Thomas E. Flaherty, Executive Director, Police Officer State of Connecticut
    Standards and Training Council
  • Attorney John W. Hogan, Jr.
    Berchem, Moses & Devlin, PC
  • Attorney Kevin Kane
    Chief State’s Attorney
    Office of the Chief State's Attorney
  • Representative Michael P. Lawlor
    Judiciary Committee
  • Chief of Police Robin Montgomery
    Brookfield Police Department
  • Major Timothy Palmbach
    Director, Forensic Science Program
    University of New Haven
  • Attorney Hope Seeley
    Santos & Seeley, PC
  • Attorney Susan O. Storey
    Chief Public Defender

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Meeting Notice - The date of the next meeting will be announced.

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Date Agenda (PDF) Minutes (PDF)
March 13, 2008 Agenda  
November 28, 2006 Agenda Minutes
     Tillman
     CT Confession

     Compensation Laws
April 6, 2006 Agenda Minutes
November 9, 2005  Agenda Minutes 
May 17, 2005 Agenda Minutes
September 29, 2004 Agenda Minutes
May 12, 2004 Agenda Minutes
March 24, 2004 Agenda Minutes
November 17, 2003 Agenda Minutes

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