The Potluck

DOJ awards Minnesota-based advocacy group $500,000 for review of wrongful convictions

By: - October 17, 2022 1:45 pm

Attorney General Keith Ellison

The U.S. Department of Justice awarded a $500,000 grant to a local advocacy group to investigate the legal cases of people who have been convicted of crimes but are believed to be innocent.

The grant will fund Minnesota’s Conviction Review Unit, which was established in 2020 in partnership with the state Attorney General’s Office and the Great North Innocence Project — a Minneapolis-based advocacy group that fights wrongful convictions in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

The state’s Conviction Review Unit, which aims to investigate and prevent wrongful convictions, has already received more than 900 applications from those seeking to overturn convictions. The Conviction Review Unit accepts cases with a “strong indication” that the person could be innocent of the crime for which they received a conviction, according to the attorney general’s website. The $500,000 grant will help the unit investigate more cases and assist in developing policy to prevent wrongful convictions.

“The only person who benefits from a wrongful conviction is the true perpetrator of a crime,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison in a statement. “This grant will allow us to continue investigating cases to make sure justice was served, and if not, we are bound by our duty as prosecutors to right those wrongs.”

The Conviction Review Unit is currently investigating over a dozen cases, some of which could be resolved in the coming months, according to a Great North Innocence Project spokesperson.

Minnesota’s Conviction Review Unit is one of four in the country that operates in partnership with the state Attorney General’s Office. These conviction review units have helped exonerate 444 people, according to a Great North Innocence Project release.

The Minnesota Conviction Review Unit advisory board includes prosecutors, defense lawyers and law professors. Former Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond, former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi all sit on the board.

Minnesota’s Conviction Review Unit also works with county attorneys to identify the correct person or people who committed a crime if the wrong person was convicted.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.