Two years after its creation, the Michigan Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit recently completed its first exoneration. The unit was introduced by Dana Nessel’s office to investigate the possibilities of wrongful convictions on a statewide level.
“How do you give [Poole] back over three decades of his life? … you can’t. All we can do … is identify what went wrong in his case and so many others to make sure it never happens again.” —Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
Gilbert Lee Poole Jr., who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1989, was the first man exonerated by the Conviction Integrity Unit.
Listen: Dana Nessel on the Conviction Integrity Unit’s first exoneration.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says having a statewide Conviction Integrity Unit “means we can go into any county in the state, and when we find a wrongfully convicted person is spending their life behind bars, we can do something about it.” Nessel says the unit investigates past mistakes in the state’s prosecution to learn from them. “How do you give [Poole] back over three decades of his life? … You can’t. All we can do is identify what went wrong in his case and so many others to make sure it never happens again.”
Nessel says technological advancements are a large factor in finding new exonerating evidence. “When we have a case that comes to us, what we look for is new evidence that completely exonerates the person,” she says. ”That happens when you test for DNA that was never tested in the first place.”
The attorney general says forensic analysis used by prosecutors has evolved significantly since Poole’s wrongful conviction. “We’re not talking about the types of forensic evidence that were presented 100 or 200 years ago. This is stuff that’s happened over a relatively short period of time and that’s why … it’s so important that we have these types of units.”