A WilmerHale team led by Debo P. Adegbile participated in an extraordinary external review, in which the firm and the Innocence Project received unprecedented access to internal documents of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office related to the first 25 wrongful convictions reversed after the Office’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU) uncovered fatal flaws in the cases.
The outside review, the first of its kind in the nation, resulted in a report issued July 9, 2020 titled: “426 Years: An Examination of 25 Wrongful Convictions in Brooklyn, NY.” The years cited in the report’s title referred to the time collectively spent in prison by the 25 individuals whose convictions were eventually reversed.
As the news release about the report said: “The purpose of the Report is to provide a new level of transparency and to underscore some of the common factors that lead to wrongful convictions, and ultimately to avoid such miscarriages of justice from happening in the future in Brooklyn and throughout the nation.”
The report’s authors expect that the report will serve as a model for prosecutors’ offices around the nation. The Brooklyn CRU, established in 2014, is the largest dedicated such unit and, as such, a national model.
Of the review and the report, Mr. Adegbile, said in the news release: “Doing justice must be the first duty of district attorneys. This Report is born of that duty and recognizes that in these cases the system failed. Wrongful convictions are tragedies for the individuals whose lives are damaged, for their families and communities, and they also erode the trust in the legal system that our democracy requires.”
Mr. Adegbile is a WilmerHale partner and co-chair of the firm’s Anti-discrimination Practice. He oversaw the firm’s pro bono team that participated in the analysis of internal documents, which had to be unsealed by court order, and the drafting of the report.
“District Attorney Gonzalez’s commitment to sharing these tragic stories publicly is commendable,” Mr. Adegbile added. “Correcting miscarriages of justice and learning how to avoid them is important for those directly affected, and indeed for all of us.”
WilmerHale lawyers who worked on the project with Mr. Adegbile included Jeanine Alvarez, Emma Bennett, Alyssa R. Budihas, Danielle Calamari, Janet Carter, Matt Celestin, Ryan Chabot, Cyndy Chueh, Jamie Dycus, Alexandra Hiatt, Brittany Llewellyn, Saurabh Sanghvi, and Jarret Zafran. WilmerHale staffers throughout the firm contributed to the report.