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.
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
- To identify and study the most
common causes of wrongful conviction, both in Connecticut and
- To educate the constituencies
represented by Commission members, and to educate the public,
regarding causes of wrongful conviction.
- To provide a forum for open and
productive dialogue between Commission members regarding causes of
- 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.
- To commission research on the
issues surrounding wrongful conviction, as the Commission deems
- To consider potential
implementation plans, cost implications, and the impact on
conviction of the guilty for each recommended best practice.
- 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
- 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.
- At the Commission’s discretion,
to review additional cases that will assist the Commission in
understanding the causes of wrongful conviction.
- The Commission shall meet at
least once quarterly.
- 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.
- To the extent possible, meetings
will take place during times most convenient to the Commission
- 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.
- 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
- Written minutes of all meetings
shall be taken by a designee of the Chief Court Administrator and
distributed to Commission members.
- 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.
- All research conducted by or at
the request of the Commission shall be organized and consolidated
for future reference.
Study and Investigation:
- 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.
- Additionally, studies and surveys
of the issues surrounding wrongful convictions may be conducted as a
part of the Commission’s work.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Commission may hereafter
adopt or modify any rules of procedure necessary to carry out its
Section 54-102g(a) of the general
statutes states that the Commission’s membership shall consist of:
- the Chief Court Administrator,
who serves as the Chair of the Commission;
- the Chief State’s Attorney, the
Chief Public Defender, the Victim Advocate, or their designees;
- representatives from the
Connecticut Police Chiefs Association and the Connecticut Bar
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Assistant Professor
James M. Adcock
Department of Criminal Justice
University of New Haven
- Attorney James W.
Shipman, Goodwin, LLP
- Honorable Patrick L.
Carroll, III, Chairperson
Chief Court Administrator
Connecticut Judicial Branch
- Attorney Michelle
Office of the Victim Advocate
- State’s Attorney
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.
Berchem, Moses & Devlin, PC
- Attorney Kevin Kane
Chief State’s Attorney
Office of the Chief State's Attorney
Michael P. Lawlor
- Chief of Police Robin
Brookfield Police Department
- Major Timothy
Director, Forensic Science Program
University of New Haven
- Attorney Hope Seeley
Santos & Seeley, PC
- Attorney Susan O.
Chief Public Defender
Meeting Notice -
The date of the next meeting
will be announced.