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Pennsylvania Adds Muscle To Reviewing Convictions For Errors

Jacqueline Larma

Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement office is starting a conviction integrity unit to review past convictions for mistakes that might result in them being overturned, officials said Wednesday.

Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser, the former chief public defender in Cambria County and former Somerset County District Attorney, will lead the unit in Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office.

The unit is designed to provide county district attorneys with the resources to analyze past convictions, Shapiro’s office said. Only a handful of county district attorneys have a unit devoted to reviewing convictions.

The move comes as reformers have aggressively questioned Pennsylvania’s criminal justice practices.

In Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner has secured exonerations in 12 cases since taking office in 2018.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who chairs the Board of Pardons, has encouraged people with nonviolent marijuana-related convictions to apply for a pardon and gone prison-to-prison encouraging inmates serving life sentences to apply for a reduced sentence.

In the Capitol, Gov. Tom Wolf has urged lawmakers to reform the state’s probation system, including putting a limit on the length of time a person can be on probation.