My vision for the new Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office includes:
Implementation of a Revamped Conviction Integrity Unit
In the 22 years the incumbent has been in office, it was only within the last few years that he has formed a conviction integrity unit. Despite this unit, it seems that all too often the public hears of a story where a defendant who has been imprisoned or charged with a crime in Brooklyn is actually innocent.
As Brooklyn District Attorney, I will appoint a well-respected and experienced prosecutor to lead the unit. This prosecutor would be aided by an advisory board of prominent defense attorneys, appellate lawyers, and former judges who would collectively analyze cases where defendants allege actual innocence and recommend which cases to re-investigate.
The head of the Conviction Integrity Unit will work hand-in-hand with the Director of Legal Training to ensure that all Assistant District Attorneys are rigorously trained on their legal obligations regarding disclosing exculpatory material. I will make it clear to all my prosecutors that it is better to err on the side of caution and disclose such material to the defense, rather than risk the conviction of a defendant who is actually innocent.
The head of the Unit will report directly to me and advise me on the causes of any wrongful convictions, so that changes can be implemented to ensure that the conditions that caused the error will never be repeated.
Implementation of an Intelligence Unit
The District Attorney’s Office of the 21st century must not only react to crime after it has already happened, but it must also make efforts to prevent crime from happening by modernizing and using technology. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has led the way in preventing crime with technology, which has been used to identify emerging crime patterns in certain neighborhoods as well as to track high priority offenders and recidivists. I would implement the ideas that have worked in Manhattan and create an Intelligence Unit that would take the current zone system in Brooklyn into the 21st century.
The Intelligence Unit would be headed by an executive Assistant District Attorney who would divide Brooklyn into 4 or 5 smaller geographical areas. Each geographical area would be assigned to another dedicated assistant whose job it would be to coordinate on the ground with that area’s police officials, school officials, parole officers, community members and local political officials, to ensure that information regarding crime problems in the area is shared between these groups and the District Attorney’s Office. This information would then be analyzed, and the results would be used to enhance existing cases, as well as to decide where to direct the office’s’ resources for starting long-term criminal investigations aimed at preventing crime before it happens.
In the current Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, there is no universal mandatory system in place to inform an Assistant District Attorney that a defendant he or she is prosecuting has been re-arrested. I would implement an Arrest Alert System so Assistant District Attorneys throughout the Office are notified immediately when a defendant has been arrested, and can ensure that charging decisions, bail applications, and sentencing recommendations address that defendant’s impact on criminal activity in our communities. The Intelligence Unit would oversee and implement the Arrest Alert System.
Implementation of Vertical Prosecution
The current administration utilizes a horizontal or “assembly line” system of prosecution where one victim can deal with multiple prosecutors as a criminal case moves from inception to trial. I would implement a vertical system where one prosecutor would handle each case from start to finish. This system is optimal for two reasons. First, it best prevents against wrongful convictions because one prosecutor will be able to determine if a victim’s version of events remains consistent throughout the entirety of the case. Second, victims will benefit by being able to develop a relationship with one prosecutor, who stays with them throughout the case.