LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles announced Tuesday a new position to review ethics and post-conviction issues, as well as the creation of an appropriate committee to review pleas of not guilty by defendants convicted in the Central District of California.
According to U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada, the Office of Ethics and Post-Sentencing Review will, among other things, oversee the work of the Office of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, coordinate investigations into allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, and consider responses to requests for clemency and commutation of sentence. .
The plea committee will consider claims of factual innocence. The head of ethics will chair a committee that will include Estrada and other senior officials.
Estrada said the new plea process is modeled in part on committees in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere around the country.
“Our primary responsibility as federal prosecutors is to seek justice,” Estrada said in a statement.
“Therefore, while we will continue to do everything in our power to protect society and uphold the rule of law, we will also do our best to ensure the integrity of our convictions, as well as the fairness of sentences. Transparency in the criminal justice system is essential. While wrongful convictions are rare, we will carefully review—and, if necessary, fully investigate—any allegations that the facts of the case do not support a guilty verdict. We are committed to achieving fair and just outcomes in every case we consider.”
Estrada added that the conviction integrity committee would also serve as “an opportunity for my office to continually review our work as prosecutors and reinforce all policies and procedures to prevent wrongful convictions.”
Estrada said the post-sentence review position will be held by Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison L. Westphal Kong, who will also chair the integrity committee. Westphal Kong was a federal prosecutor for 10 years, most recently as head of litigation, integrity and professionalism.
“Allison is an experienced prosecutor, a respected legal scholar and a consummate professional,” Estrada said. “Her experience and judgment will ensure success in her new role.”