CLEVELAND — Over three and half decades on the bench, former Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ron Adrine’s resume is long, and he hoped to serve on Cuyahoga County’s Conviction Integrity Unit for quite a while too.
“We hoped we could say to the community, we recognize that sometimes mistakes are made and sometimes those mistakes aren't caught,” said Adrine.
The board was established back in 2016 and is tasked with reviewing wrongful conviction claims consisting of a Conviction Integrity Board and an Independent Review Panel.
But Adrine’s four-year tenure and everyone’s else’s concluded Monday because all five of its community members resigned.
“I had anticipated that we would have an opportunity to see more cases, I had expected that once the word was out that we would have a conviction integrity unit there would be a flood of cases,” said Adrine.
In a resignation letter sent to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley the five former members said the board has only reviewed 10 petitions since 2010.
The board also made suggestions to O’Malley like ensuring the public knows about the CIU and its efforts, it also suggested O’Malley’s office gives the board a stronger role in determining which petitions are reviewed.
“Without knowing which cases were being rejected, we had no way in knowing if those cases should be included,” said Adrine.
A representative sent News 5 the following statement:
“When Prosecutor O’Malley took office in 2017, he expanded the Conviction Integrity Unit and created both an Internal Review Panel and an External Review Panel. While the External Review Panel was created with good intentions and in the spirit of transparency, it has been damaging to the effort of the Conviction Integrity Unit and to the victims of crime.
In March 2020, our office policy changed regarding the role of the External Review Panel and the Internal Review Panel and the work of the CIU remained ongoing. Since 2021, there have been 65 applications resolved. From 2017 to 2021, applicants were granted relief in 4.7% of total CIU applications submitted, and in 2021, 14.2% of applicants were exonerated. For comparison, in an Ohio Supreme Court Task Force meeting on January 15, 2021, the Ohio Innocence Project acknowledged, they have taken about 40 out of 12,000 (.33%) cases to court with an approximate release rate of .28% (according to the releases listed on their website this year).
Our office was in the process of updating the policy in response to ongoing litigation regarding issues pertaining to defendants’ post-conviction relief. In a nutshell, defendants were attempting to use deliberations of the External Review Panel as evidence in support of their claim for post-conviction relief. It is not evidence and that was never the intent of having an External Review Panel. In our last meeting on October 19, 2022, we discussed with the External Review Panel two options, moving forward under the new policy or disbanding the External Review Panel and we respect their decision. We thank and acknowledge the hard work of the External Review Panel, the personal time they put in, and their efforts throughout the years. Regretfully, for the great work of the CIU to continue, it became apparent the program would need to change. While our office believes and will continue to believe in the mission of the Conviction Integrity Unit and the good work that is does, we look forward to continuing that work in a way where it will not be abused to the detriment of the victims of crime.”
Adrine said he and his colleagues chose to step back and they hope O’Malley considers their suggestions.
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