The wrongful convictions of five teens for the April 1989 attack of a jogger in Central Park drew the attention of Alvin Bragg.
What You Need To Know
- Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg established the Post-Conviction Justice Unit in 2022
- Anyone convicted in a case worked by Manhattan prosecutors can submit their case for review
- The unit is staffed with seven lawyers and an investigator
At the time of the case, Bragg was a teenager in Harlem.
“I think for most boys, now men, of that time in Harlem, it just left a deep imprint,” Bragg said during a recent interview with NY1.
As he ran for Manhattan district attorney, Bragg vowed to transform how the office reviews the past convictions of people who still claim they are innocent.
The first person exonerated under Bragg was Steven Lopez, who was the sixth person arrested for the April 1989 Central Park jogger attack.
Now, the Post-Conviction Justice Unit in the Manhattan district attorney’s office is staffed with 13 people, including seven lawyers and an investigator.
Unit Chief Terri Rosenblatt tells NY1 they work separately and independently from the trial prosecutors in the office.
“We’re looking at closed cases of people who have been convicted,” Rosenblatt said.
Any person convicted of a crime that was prosecuted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office can reach out to the unit and request a second look at their case.
To determine whether a case will go through a full reinvestigation, Rosenblatt says, “We’re looking for credible claims of unjust conviction or innocence.”
In November, the Post Conviction Justice Unit moved to exonerate two men. Wayne Gardine was convicted in 1996 of murder, and Jabar Walker was convicted in 1998 of a double murder.
Walker left prison for the first time in 25 years.
The unit recently wrote to a Manhattan judge advising they’ll ask for the convictions of Eric Smokes and David Warren to be overturned.
Both went to prison for the 1987 murder of a tourist in Times Square after maintaining their innocence from the start.
“I have people reach out to me after a vacatur and they say, the fact that you’re looking back gives me faith in what you’re doing today and going forward,” Bragg said.