Conviction Integrity Unit
Frank Crowley Courts Building - 133 N. Riverfront Boulevard, LB 19, Dallas, TX 75207
Phone: (214) 653-3600 • Fax: (214) 653-5774
General Information About the Conviction Integrity Unit
The Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) is a special, nationally and internationally recognized, part of the District Attorney’s Office that was established in July 2007, which reviews cases where there is an allegation of actual innocence. The CIU has been responsible for exonerations in Dallas County since its establishment. The CIU also advises prosecutors in current cases and provides training to attorneys and law enforcement. When an exoneration leads to the actual perpetrators of the crime, and the law allows for their prosecution, the CIU prosecutes the actual perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.
The CIU is currently comprised of two Assistant District Attorneys, an administrative assistant, and an investigator who, together, review the many cases brought to their attention. While the CIU closely collaborates with innocence projects and local law enforcement agencies when reviewing and re-investigating cases, the Unit is part of the District Attorney’s Office and is, therefore, under the District Attorney’s direction. Our District Attorney plans on expanding this essential Unit in the coming years.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is the CIU part of the Innocence Project?
A: No, the CIU is part of the District Attorney’s Office. However, we closely collaborate with various innocence projects when reviewing and re-investigating cases. Persons working with innocence projects and/or the Public Defender’s Office are not part of the CIU.
Q: How can my case, or the case of my loved one, be reviewed by the CIU?
A: You or your loved one may write a letter to the CIU requesting review of the case. Your letter should include the name of the defendant, the cause number, your contact information (preferably a mailing address and phone number), and specific information of why your case is one of actual innocence. The letter must be mailed to:
Conviction Integrity Unit
Dallas County District Attorney’s Office
133 N. Riverfront Blvd., LB 19
Dallas, Texas 75207
All received letters go through an initial review process. If the CIU makes a preliminary decision to re-open an investigation into the case, your request will be placed on our waiting-list in the order it was received. If we are unable to re-open an investigation into the case, we will refer you or your loved one to an innocence project or the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office.
Q: How can I find out what number my case is on the waiting list?
A: We do not have a traditional waiting list by number. Rather, once the CIU makes a preliminary determination to re-open a case, we work to obtain as much information in each case as possible – which may include attempting to locate the District Attorney’s file, investigative agency’s file, and any information from the forensic laboratory, if applicable. Sometimes, obtaining information in the case may be faster or slower depending on many factors, such as the age of the case, the original investigating agency, and the charge. Please be patient.
Q: How do I know whether the CIU received my letter?
A: You may call us at 214-653-3600 and ask to speak to the Conviction Integrity Unit’s administrative assistant. Our administrative assistant will be able to let you know if the CIU received your request.
Q: How quickly will I hear back from the CIU?
A: Because the CIU receives hundreds of letters each year, we cannot guarantee a time frame of when you should expect to hear back from us. However, we make every effort to respond as soon as possible. Please be patient. If you would like to know whether the CIU received your letter, please call our administrative assistant at 214-653-3600, who will be able to respond to your question.
Q: I received a letter from the CIU which states that the CIU is unable to re-open an investigation into my case. Why can’t the CIU re-investigate my case?
A: Since the CIU receives hundreds of review requests each year, we are unable to re-open investigations into each and every request for various reasons. The criteria for actual innocence claims and the way those claims are presented in court are governed by law. Sometimes the claims – as presented to the CIU – are insufficient to meet the criteria for the CIU’s review. This may be due to many reasons, for example not enough information was provided in the review request letter, or the claim does not meet the actual innocence legal standards.
Since the CIU is part of the District Attorney’s Office, we cannot offer legal advice, nor represent anyone in the defense of his/her case. As such, we will often refer your case to an innocence project or the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office because they are better situated to communicate with, and discuss confidential matters, with the defendant. Once an innocence project or the Public Defender’s Office is able to obtain more information related to the case, and if they believe this is a case where the CIU should get involved, they will present the case to the CIU in an effort to request a re-investigation.
Also, the CIU does not generally review cases where the only claim is that the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel, or other constitutional violation. We also do not review cases where there is only a request for a time-cut or complaint that the inmate has not made parole.
Most importantly, however, is that the CIU’s determination does not prevent you from attempting to obtain relief through the normal legal process, such as filing a writ of habeas corpus. Also, the CIU’s determination should not be taken as legal advice that your claim does not have merit. You are always free to seek legal advice from a defense attorney at any time regarding your case, and/or pursue any legal claim you believe you may have.
Q: Are you able to receive letters and/or re-investigate cases where the defendant does not - or witnesses do not - speak English?
A: Yes. If the review request letter is not written in English, we make every effort to obtain a translation of the letter. The request will be treated the same as ones where the request is made in English. Additionally, the CIU is currently able to assist Spanish-speakers.
Q: Does the CIU only review cases where there is forensic evidence available for DNA testing?
A: No. In the past, the CIU has accepted – and obtained exonerations on – cases where DNA evidence was unavailable. However, re-investigating cases and obtaining an exoneration without the benefit of DNA evidence is more difficult.
Q: If the CIU re-investigates my case, does that mean that I will be exonerated?
A: No. Each case is unique and simply because the CIU will re-investigate the case does not mean that it will result in an exoneration.