Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU)

Bessemer Division

The Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) will begin operations January 11, 2021, as a part of the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, Bessemer Division. The Protocols developed by this office for the establishment and operation of the CIU are as follows:


It is the duty of the prosecutor to protect the innocent before, during, and after trial. The prosecutor is to seek truth and justice, not merely obtain convictions. Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.8 sets forth the special responsibilities of a prosecutor and includes the following:

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:
  1. Not willfully fail to make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense; and
  2. In connection with sentencing, disclose to the defense and to the tribunal all unprivileged mitigating information known to the prosecutor, except when the prosecutor is relieved of this responsibility by a protective order of the tribunal.

When a prosecutor knows of clear and convincing evidence establishing that a person was convicted in the prosecutor’s jurisdiction of an offense that the person did not commit, the prosecutor shall seek to remedy the conviction.

To promote best practices, the Office of the District Attorney has established a Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) to formalize and standardize, within the 10th Judicial District, Bessemer, actions called for by the Alabama Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 3.8.

Bessemer Criminal Justice Center • 1851 2nd Avenue • Suite 110 • Bessemer, AL 35020
Tel. 205 497-8610 • Fax 205 496-8603

Eligible Cases

The conviction must have occurred within the Bessemer Division of Jefferson County. The application must be based on new credible and verifiable evidence of innocence. The CIU will not attempt to act as a thirteenth juror and reweigh evidence. The CIU will not consider requests for review while any appeal, petition, or writ is pending in court. The CIU retains the discretion to review any case if it is in the interest of justice to do so.

Any request coming from a convicted person or one other than a convicted person must include the convicted person’s written approval of the request, including a completed Conviction Integrity Request Questionnaire form provided by the CIU which is available upon request or online.

Confidentiality Agreement

In order for the CIU to consider a request for review, the convicted person must agree on the following cooperation: 

  • The convicted person will waive privilege and share anything relating to guilt or innocence in the case.
  • The convicted person and the CIU must both consent to disclosure of material not already in the public record before any disclosure to any third party.
  • The Office of the District Attorney retains the right not to disclose the following:
    • Information that would compromise an investigation of an alternate suspect;
    • Information that would endanger the life of a witness; or
    • Information that is prohibited by law from being released

Conviction Integrity Review Procedure

Once a case is referred to the CIU, the procedure is as follows: 

  • At initial contact, the Assistant District Attorney(s) assigned to evaluate conviction review applications will review the request and either:
    • Request additional information which may include forensic testing and proceed to Step 2 after receipt of information;
    • Determine that further review is needed and proceed to Step 3; or
    • Decline review if no new evidence of actual innocence is present. If review is declined, the convicted person will be informed of the reason(s) and will be given an opportunity to respond.
  • Review additional information and either:
    • Determine that further action is needed and proceed to Step 3; or
    • Determine that no further action is needed.
  • After submission of a case report and upon approval of the same, the Assistant District Attorney(s) will proceed with a full investigation. The CIU Assistant District Attorney(s) will work with a District Attorney’s Office Criminal Investigator to complete the new investigation.
  • The original file, the new investigation and recommendation of the CIU Assistant District Attorney(s) will be forwarded to the Chief Assistant District Attorney and the District Attorney.
  • The District Attorney will render a decision after considering the recommendations of the CIU Assistant District Attorney(s) and the Chief Assistant District Attorney, and will base that decision on all available facts.

Procedure for Requests for Forensic Testing

  • Initial investigation: The CIU will determine if evidence is available and assess its location and condition.
  • Authorization for testing: Testing of evidence must be approved by a member of the CIU. Decisions to test will be made on a case by case basis in consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case and relevance and materiality of the evidence.
  • Case review: Once testing is complete, the CIU will examine the claim and conduct further investigation if needed.

Victim Notification

If the CIU decides to proceed with a full investigation, the Office of the District Attorney will notify the victim(s) of the case pursuant to the Alabama Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. 

Conviction Review Report and Recommendation

If the CIU conducts a full investigation, the CIU Assistant District Attorney(s) will prepare a report summarizing the case facts, the issues presented by the application, and any investigative findings. The report will contain the CIU’s recommendation and be presented to the Assistant District Attorney and the District Attorney. The decision to recommend or not recommend that the conviction be vacated rests with the District Attorney. A recommendation to vacate a conviction will be made to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office if the District Attorney no longer has confidence in the conviction because of clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence.

Notification to Convicted Person

The convicted person will be notified in writing of the District Attorney’s final decision.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Understanding that all human systems are fallible and that risks in a system can be minimized, the Office of the Assistant District Attorney strives to be a high reliability organization, which engages in self-monitoring and self-improving by incorporating established practices. The Office of the Assistant District Attorney shall create and maintain protocols around the conduct of RCA to reduce non-conforming work or departures from policies and procedures revealed during the conviction review process.

Standard for Decision to Recommend Vacating Conviction

The standard to be used by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office- Bessemer Cutoff Division is “clear and convincing evidence” that a person was convicted in our jurisdiction of an offense the person did not commit.

A recommendation to vacate a conviction will be made if the Assistant District Attorney no longer has confidence in the conviction because of clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence.

Annual Report

The CIU will maintain records of cases reviewed and the decisions resulting from those reviews in a CIU case management system. The CIU will present an annual report to the District Attorney.

Office Training Resulting from RCA

The CIU will assist with training programs to promote best practices and to reduce non­-conforming work or departures from policies and procedures.

Notification of Other Agencies of Needed Changes Revealed by RCA

Criminal justice agencies providing non-conforming work or departing from policies or procedures which is revealed by RCA will be notified. The Office of the District Attorney General will offer to provide training for those criminal justice agencies.

Policy Statement

As a general policy, the CIU will not investigate, in the absence of other compelling justification, claims where the convicted person knew or should have known the basis of his or her current claim at the time of the conviction, or where the person now disavows his or her trial testimony and offers a different theory of innocence. Additionally, absent a compelling showing that a guilty or no contest plea was entered to avoid a more significant sanction, the convicted person must have continually maintained his or her innocence in order to merit review. 

It is also the policy of the District Attorney’s Office and the CIU to preclude any member of this office that participated in the prosecution of a case that is being reviewed from the decision-making process for that case.

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