A prosecutor’s duty is not to convict, but to see that justice is done. This obligation does not end with a conviction. Our office is committed to working diligently to ensure that, in each case, the correct person was convicted. No justice system is perfect. We serve our community by acknowledging that the system can make mistakes and by taking appropriate measures to identify and correct any mistakes.

The methods used to develop evidence in criminal cases are constantly evolving. New research and new technologies in forensic sciences, such as DNA and fingerprint identification, lead to better testing. Research into the way the brain processes memory impacts issues such as eyewitness identification and witness testimony. We must work to make sure that the evidence we use reflects the strongest and most current scientific knowledge.

In the Conviction Integrity Unit, our mission is to:

  • Review claims of actual innocence from a neutral standpoint and take appropriate action to ensure that the correct result occurred;
  • Continually study causes of wrongful convictions, developments in forensic sciences, and best practices for preventing wrongful convictions;
  • Conduct a thorough review of any wrongful convictions occurring in Travis County to determine what factors led to the wrongful conviction and to propose appropriate improvements to avoid further wrongful convictions;
  • Provide education to prosecutors, defense attorneys, and law enforcement in order to minimize the likelihood that an innocent person is convicted; and
  • Reach out to community stakeholders to build confidence in the criminal justice system.

Cases received by the CIU are reviewed by an attorney to determine whether the claims raised are ones that we can legally address. The original case materials are examined, including police reports, witness statements, lab reports, and trial transcripts. If necessary, additional evidence may be gathered, including re-testing of scientific evidence or obtaining additional witness statements.

If the CIU determines that the case may present legally sufficient grounds for a Court to reverse a conviction, the CIU will contact the original court and ask that an attorney be appointed to represent the claimant. Ultimately, the Court of Criminal Appeals will determine the outcome of any claims made.

In 2015, the FBI announced that it had found an error in the population database used to calculate probabilities in forensic DNA analyses. In some cases, a recalculation using the corrected data resulted in significantly different probabilities.

Around this time, DNA Labs began to use revised guidelines in how DNA samples involving mixtures of DNA were interpreted which revealed possible issues with prior analyses of DNA mixture cases.

In 2016, an audit of the Austin Police Department Crime Lab – DNA section found potential issues with lab procedures and training. As a result, the DNA section closed.

In 2016, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office began identifying defendants whose cases may have been affected by these issues. The DA’s office, in conjunction with the Capital Area Private Defender Service – Forensic Project, has sent notice to many of those defendants so that they may determine whether they would like their case re-examined.

For more information, click here.

What kind of cases does the CIU review?

We can review any felony convictions arising out of a District Court in Travis County. We are limited to claims of actual innocence arising out of newly discovered evidence or advancements in scientific evidence that affect confidence in the evidence at the time of conviction. We cannot review cases from outside of Travis County. We also cannot review claims based on procedural errors.

Will any information provided be protected by privilege?

Even though the CIU is reviewing a case, we are still representing the State of Texas, rather than the defendant. None of the information we receive from a defendant is protected by any attorney-client privilege.

Can you overturn my case?

While we can re-examine evidence and review cases, we do not have any authority to change a conviction ourselves. When the evidence warrants, we will present our findings to the appropriate court so that the court can make a determination.

To submit a case for review, click here.