Criminal Justice

New Virginia Attorney General Fires Entire Conviction Integrity Unit

Miyares' office says the conviction integrity unit is being expanded. Time will tell if it will have the independence and resources to succeed.

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Virginia's newly elected Republican attorney general, Jason Miyares, fired about 30 staffers after taking office last week, including the office's entire conviction integrity unit.

The shake-up at the attorney general's office included canning attorneys who worked on issues like dangerous housing conditions, scams that target the elderly, and civil rights abuses. Miyares has promised to reverse what he's called a "criminal-first, victim-last" mindset.

A spokesperson for Miyares' office says the conviction integrity unit, created by former Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring in 2021, will still exist and is being broadened to include special investigations and cold cases. It will be led by former Arlington prosecutor and Democrat Theo Stamos.

Conviction integrity units, also known as conviction review units, operate within prosecutors' offices to investigate old cases for errors or misconduct that may have led to a wrongful conviction. The first one started in Dallas in 2007. There are now around 45 across the country, mostly in major cities.

As I wrote in 2019, conviction review units "are an acknowledgment that public officials can suffer from tunnel vision, confirmation bias, professional ambition, and bureaucratic self-preservation. Left unexamined, these failings can lead police and prosecutors, especially in an adversarial justice system, to dismiss the possibility that they put the wrong person behind bars."

Wrongful convictions are not a hypothetical concern. The National Registry of Exonerations reported that there were 129 exonerations in 2020. Of those, conviction integrity units secured 61. There have been 375 DNA exonerations in the U.S. since 1989, according to the Innocence Project.

But conviction integrity units need resources and independence to function properly. In some jurisdictions, work at units ground to a halt after the election of new district attorneys who were disinterested in exposing rotten work by their own office.

The appointment of Stamos to head the unit may appear like a bipartisan olive branch, but there's a bit of history there. Stamos was primaried and defeated in a close race for Arlington's commonwealth attorney by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who was part of a national trend of well-funded progressive candidates challenging incumbent prosecutors from the left. Criminal justice reform advocates criticized Stamos for prosecuting minors for petty offenses and supporting cash bail.

Miyares supports legislation that would allow police to ask the Virginia Attorney General's Office to prosecute crimes when local prosecutors like Dehghani-Tafti refuse to.

"If you're not going to do your job, let Virginians have a backup plan in the attorney general," Miyares told The Washington Post.

Still, Miyares told the Post that he won't stomach police abuse and is open to so-called pattern and practice investigations into police departments: 

Miyares, who is the son of a Cuban immigrant, said he was sensitive to abuse by police after hearing his uncle relay a story of being detained and abused by Cuban authorities shortly after the Bay of Pigs invasion. He said his uncle was subject to a mock execution.

"I'm a passionate believer in individual dignity and not abusing that—least of all by government," Miyares said.

A spokesperson for Herring said the firings will "be a significant loss to the mission of the Office of Attorney General."

"These are dedicated and professional public servants who do important work, like investigate wrongful convictions, protect Virginians' civil rights, help to ensure free and fair elections, and prevent human trafficking and opioid abuse," the Herring spokesperson told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

As he was on his way out of office, Herring announced earlier this month that police in Virginia Beach used forged DNA evidence in interrogations to coerce confessions or cooperation in at least five cases.

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27 responses to “New Virginia Attorney General Fires Entire Conviction Integrity Unit

  1. Love it Virginia. GOP is giving it to them good and hard! Cannot wait for midterms.

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    2. Meanwhile Virginia progtards are blaming everything on Youngkin. Hey, gotta keep the TDS going

  2. Virginia is for lovers. And you get crabs in Maryland.

    1. Mmmmm...Steamed Maryland Blue Crabs...Uhhhgrhhh...

      1. Old Bay Spice > Arrakis Spice.

        1. Old Bay and vinegar on fries is excellent.

  3. "The appointment of Stamos to head the unit may appear like a bipartisan olive branch, but there's a bit of history there. Stamos was primaried and defeated in a close race for Arlington's commonwealth attorney by Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who was part of a national trend of well-funded progressive candidates challenging incumbent prosecutors from the left."

    Uh huh...a bit of history eh?

    I love that all that history Ciaramella wants to tell us is that it was a "nation wide trend" - not a Soros concocted scheme to decriminalize pretty much everything in the country and turn our cities into hell holes that would make revolution easier. But yeah...a bit of history.

    1. Like a lot of history - some people did something - - - - - - - - - -

    2. Look, the man has to support communist revolutionaries if he wants to remain a journalist in good standing.

    3. not a Soros concocted scheme to decriminalize pretty much everything in the country and turn our cities into hell holes that would make revolution easier

      Your posts are usually a wee bit more rational than that. Do I agree that Soros spent some money with "good intentions" but ultimately based on really bad ideas with terrible downsides? Yes. But putting him at the center with the idea of intentionally turning "cities into hell holes"? Pure conspiracy drivel.

      1. He greatly funded Ferguson riots to try to change politics through disruption

        https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2913625/Billionaire-George-Soros-spent-33MILLION-bankrolling-Ferguson-demonstrators-create-echo-chamber-drive-national-protests.html

        He helped crash a few national nanks like the banks of England and Thailand to make money on currency speculation.

        It isnt like he has a history.

        1. IIFC he shorted currencies because their governments were foolish in their monetary policies. Yes, that hurt regular people more then the dumbass central bankers - so it goes. But I can't fault the man for pointing out the Emperor had no clothes and making a buck while doing it.

          1. I guess if a burglar can pick your lock, you can fault him either.

      2. "Your posts are usually a wee bit more rational than that"

        Well, I was in a rush, so ok.

        I do not have first hand knowledge that Soros intended to make crime so easy in cities that they drive out the rich and make law-abiding poor miserable. But he did it.

        And I don't know that he actually intended to create a situation where the only realistic choice is Leftist leaders who won't prosecute any crime, and Right leaders who are heavy on the Law and Order. But he did it. (Literally, this is what primarying centrist left DAs has done- removed a centrist option from the field.)

        And I don't know if his intent was to create such an unworkable system that revolutionary groups like Antifa operate with impunity in blue cities. But he did it.

        And I don't know if it was his intent to create so much chaos that basic institutions of governance in these cities stopped functioning...But that seems to be happening.

        So I cannot tell if Soros, a brilliant man of means, intended to follow the Marxist playbook to drive society into a place where violent revolution is more likely. But he sure as fuck is going that direction. So I am comfortable with my hasty summary.

      3. MP: “Do I agree that Soros spent some money with "good intentions" but ultimately based on really bad ideas with terrible downsides?”

        Alan Grant: “Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.”

  4. Time will tell if it will have the independence to prosecute republicansB> in prosecuting republicans.

    1. This is a classic example of the Trumpanzee quoque fallacy

  5. Time will tell if it will have the independence to prosecute non-democrats and resources to succeedin prosecuting non-democrats .

    1. Prosecute you for HTML fail. Two tag lashings.

  6. Let’s give Miyares the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully he will honor his constitutional Oath of Office to the Virginia and U.S. constitutions.

    The premise of the American Oath of Office (Article VI of the U.S. Constitution) is essentially that the “ends” NEVER justify unconstitutional “means”. Article VI governs federal, state and local officials - including attorneys general and prosecutors. This is a voluntary employment contract officials agree to in order to retain authority. Anyone that refuses to take this oath can’t govern in the United States and can’t obtain authority.

    Miyares has jurisdiction over a state where Cointelpro style blacklisting torture has taken place for over 20 years. Ronald Reagan signed a legally binding Torture Treaty (codified into U.S. law) and wanted all torturers to be investigated and prosecuted. Reagan included cruel treatment, like Cointelpro blacklisting torture, in that treaty. Federal officials have never had the authority to torture and state AGs can check & balance federal crimes of torture.

    Miyares has the top torture agencies located within his jurisdiction. Innocent Virginians have been tortured for more than 7000 consecutive days - akin to Chinese Water Torture. Will Miyares tackle this 20 year crime wave in Virginia?

    Miyares job is first and foremost to uphold his constitutional Oath of Office - protecting the constitutional rights of all persons within his jurisdiction - even when the perps are oath sworn officials.

    1. Not denying that torture occurs or has happened in Virginia, especially with all the government and military located here, but could you please give some examples?

  7. In case I have to explain this change to a foreigner, is it safe to assume that purpose of the conviction integrity unit is to find a way to undo any convictions of cops, bureaucrats or politicians?

    1. That is the Dem way, laws for thee but not for me.

  8. Time to start throwing those potheads in jail like we used to. That'll learn 'em.

  9. Could it be that Virginia's soft-on-crime policies from the previous administration are being purged, including the lists of progressive pals conveniently gathered in one agency?

    I haven't found the complete roster, but the press pieces on hirings and stated goals made it pretty obvious this was a progressive staffed leftist venture that deliberately excluded police agents.

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