John Ingrassia Joins Orange County’s Conviction Integrity Program

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

By Heather Yakin
Times Herald-Record

Posted Jul. 28, 2015 @ 7:54 pm

GOSHEN – Orange County now has a new avenue for people who believe they were wrongfully convicted of a crime in the county. On Tuesday, District Attorney David Hoovler announced the formation of a Conviction Integrity Program.

Under the program, a committee will review claims by convicted defendants that they were wrongfully convicted, or convicted of too high-level a crime. Hoovler said it's important to have a formal mechanism to review post-conviction claims of innocence.

"It comes down to making sure the office follows all the best practices," Hoovler said. "It’s not only to correct any wrongful convictions, it’s to prevent them."

Wrongful convictions have made news as similar conviction review units in jurisdictions including Chicago, Brooklyn and Manhattan have led to the overturning of decades-old murder and rape convictions.

To qualify for review, the convicted defendant or a representative must submit a written claim of innocence based on a supported claim of misidentification, false confession, witness recantation, untruthful informants or confirmation of an alibi.

The committee is made up of nine people: Executive Assistant District Attorney Robert Conflitti, Executive Assistant District Attorney Christopher Borek, Chief Trial Assistant District Attorney John Geidel, Senior Assistant District Attorney Maryellen Albanese and Chief Investigator Wilfredo Garcia from the prosecutor's office; Port Jervis Police Chief William Worden, Crawford Police Chief Dominick Blasko, and defense lawyers John Ingrassia and Glen Plotsky.

Hoovler said it was important to include people from outside his office for the sake of transparency and to ensure some independence.

"I want to be sure anyone who makes a claim of actual innocence gets a fair shake, that it looks like they’re getting a fair shake, and that qualified people are looking at their claims," Hoovler said.

Given today’s climate of increased public scrutiny for police, prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers, said Plotsky, the time is right for the new program.

"This will give another facet of review in those cases where there’s a close question as to whether everybody did what they were supposed to do correctly, and when there are questions of fact as to what did or did not occur," he said.

Hoovler said his office has reviewed a handful of cases in the past year and a half, but a formalized process is needed to ensure cases are handled properly.

"The system is not infallible. The people who work in the system are not infallible," Hoovler said. "And there has to be a safeguard."

http://www.recordonline.com/article/20150728/NEWS/150729387/101029/NEWS