Editorial Roundup: Wrongful conviction program needed in Minn.

Published 8:50 pm Friday, August 13, 2021

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has taken another step toward reforming justice in Minnesota with the establishment of a conviction review unit to investigate potential wrongful felony convictions.

The office will review felony convictions where petitioners have plausible arguments for innocence, particularly in cases of eyewitness testimony or testimony that was later recanted or thrown out.

The program grew from a collaboration between the attorney general’s office and the Great North Innocence Project that was funded by an initial federal grant of $300,000 for two years.

The program will not only seek to investigate likely wrongful convictions but also suggest policy changes for courts and the justice system to prevent wrongful convictions from happening again.

While Ellison did not emphasize a racial justice element to the new program, it will likely play a big role in overturning convictions of people of color and others who’ve been wrongly convicted and otherwise discriminated against. There are plenty of examples through history of Blacks and other people of color being wrongly convicted and spending years in prison.

It’s a good sign to see Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi backing the new effort and supporting it by membership on its advisory board which will establish its charter. The 17-member advisory board includes other experts in law, academia and social justice issues.

The program will be run by well-qualified Assistant Attorney General Carrie Sperling, who has been involved in innocence projects at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Texas law schools. She also managed the Arizona Justice Project as one of the first collaborations between innocence projects and attorney generals offices.

The set up in Minnesota is one of only four of its kind in the United States that operates statewide through an attorney general’s office.

We have little doubt that the program will find plenty of people to exonerate throughout the state. Justice and the court system is far from perfect. It has built-in biases, just as juries have built-in biases. It’s time Minnesota took time to examine the principle by which we must live: Equal justice under the law.

— Mankato Free Press, Aug. 6

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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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