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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

Established in July 2007, the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) is a special, nationally and internationally recognized Unit in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. The CIU is currently led by Cynthia R. Garza, Chief / Special Fields Bureau Chief. Ms. Garza has served in this role since July 2017. Prior to her appointment as Chief of the CIU, she served as the Acting Chief.

The CIU is primarily dedicated to reviewing cases involving allegations of actual innocence, but it also reviews cases involving instances of wrongful conviction as a result of systematic errors. The CIU has been responsible for exonerations in Dallas County since its establishment.

The CIU also serves as the District Attorney’s Office’s liaison with the Texas Forensic Science Commission and serves in an advisory role in policy-making decisions within the office. Additionally, the Unit often advises prosecutors in current cases and regularly provides training to prosecutors, attorneys, and law enforcement – in Dallas County and also across the State and nation. The CIU is also responsible for sending out mass notifications where systematic errors affected or potentially affected the judicial process. Furthermore, the Unit is also in charge of evidence retention issues. 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.

District Attorney Faith Johnson expanded the CIU in August 2017, which is currently comprised of three Assistant District Attorneys, an administrative legal assistant, and a dedicated investigator. 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. The Chief / Special Fields Bureau Chief of the CIU reports directly to the District Attorney.

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: Does the CIU represent me as my attorney?

A: No, the CIU works for the District Attorney on behalf of the State of Texas. As such, CIU attorneys are not able to offer legal advice to you. If you desire representation or legal advice, you should consider hiring private counsel, contact the public defender’s office, or seek the assistance of an innocence project.

Q: How can the CIU review my case, or the case of my loved one?

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 explaining 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 screening process and are assigned to a CIU prosecutor for preliminary review. 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 may inform you that you can retain private counsel, or we may 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, the 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: Sometimes those letters are delayed in transit to us. When the Dallas County DA’s Office CIU does receive your letter, we will let you know within 14 days that we have received it. Additionally, if you haven’t received an acknowledgment that we’ve received your letter, you may call us at 214-653-3600 and ask to speak to the Conviction Integrity Unit’s administrative legal assistant. Our administrative legal assistant will be able to let you know if the CIU received your request.

Q: How quickly will the CIU let me know that a decision has been made?

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 about a decision. However, we make every effort to process your request as soon as possible. Please be patient.

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: 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, 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, 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, for example. We do not review cases where there is only a request for a time-cut or complaint that an 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 or 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 without the benefit of DNA evidence is more difficult and slow-moving because these types of cases are very time consuming in investigating.

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 re-investigates the case does not mean that it will result in an exoneration. All cases in which exoneration is sought must go through the writ of habeas corpus legal process and meet rigorous legal standards in order to be submitted to, and considered by, the trial court, and ultimately the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The District Attorney’s Office – by law – does not have the power to reverse or “un-do” a conviction on its own. Applications for writ of habeas corpus cannot be submitted on your behalf by the CIU. Convictions can only be reversed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals after a writ of habeas corpus is filed and in limited circumstances by the trial court or by pardon from the Governor or President.