Prosecutors from around the country gathered Thursday for a summit on wrongful convictions and strategies for overturning them. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
More and more prosecutors are re-examining if they have mistakenly sent innocent people to prison.
"It is our fundamental duty as prosecutors to do justice. And that means to do what is right," said Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson.
Dozens of prosecutors, defense lawyers and advocates from across the country attended a summit hosted by the Brooklyn district attorney on the operation of conviction review units. They discussed strategies on how to exonerate those wrongfully locked up.
"We all know the criminal justice system has problems in it. I mean, nobody can deny that," said David Angel, an assistant district attorney with Santa Clara County in California. "So the question is, as a prosecutor, are we going to be at the table leading those efforts for reform and looking at issues that have come?"
Thompson was elected after promising to examine cases of those who said they were innocent. In the almost two years he's been in office, 14 men have been exonerated, and he's looking at dozens of other cases.
Nearly 1,700 people nationwide have been exonerated of serious crimes since 1989. One hundred and forty-one of those cases were in the city.
Advocates say inmates' claims of innocence are often ignored by prosecutors.
"There's a way to have a cooperative process post-conviction where you conduct a really intensive review and then you try to learn from error to fix the system," said Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project. "And the fact that we can work together getting this done."
For those who have wrongfully spent time in prison, hearing prosecutors sound sympathic is encouraging.
"It's a concrete reason to have hope and inspiration that their day of justice can occur," said Jeffrey Deskovic, who was exonerated after 16 years.
For DAs, the stakes are high when making these choices.
"Anyone who we decide to let out of prison, if they do anything wrong, the person they are going to blame is moi," Thompson said.
The Brooklyn district attorney said although this is about freeing innocent men and women, he said it is also a move to convince the general public that the justice system can be fair for everyone.