The Reinvestigation Project screens cases assigned to OAD to identify clients who may have been wrongfully convicted. Reinvestigation cases are thoroughly reviewed, with OAD attorneys and a staff investigator locating and interviewing witnesses, collecting new evidence, consulting with expert witnesses, and following up all possible leads. Where appropriate, OAD will file a motion to vacate the judgment or other request to overturn a wrongful conviction. Anastasia Heeger is the Director of the Reinvestigation Project.
Please note that the Project only handles cases from Manhattan and Bronx counties that have been assigned to OAD by the court. Please do not mail documents or other materials to the Project. Given the large volume of mail received, OAD cannot return case materials.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Reinvestigation Project?
The Reinvestigation Project reinvestigates cases of clients assigned to the Office of the Appellate Defender by the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department in their direct appeals. We do this by reinvestigating cases we choose that have a high likelihood of wrongful conviction.
How can I get the Appellate Division to assign the Office of the Appellate Defender to my case?
Our cases are randomly assigned to us by the court, and consist of indigent defendants who were convicted in the Bronx and Manhattan. At this time, the Reinvestigation Project is not funded to accept cases that have not been assigned to the office on direct appeal.
How are the cases chosen for the Reinvestigation Project?
Every case assigned to the Office of the Appellate Defender is thoroughly reviewed by Project staff. Where we find certain factors that indicate the possibility of a wrongful conviction, we will begin a reinvestigation and, where appropriate, commence litigation to overturn the conviction. At this time, the Reinvestigation Project is not funded to accept cases that have not been assigned to the office on direct appeal.
What factors point to the possibility of a wrongful conviction?
Cases in which a person has been convicted based solely on a single eye witness – especially where the witness and the defendant are of different races (cross-racial identification cases); cases where the conviction is based solely on a cooperating witness’s testimony; cases which rest upon a defendant’s confession where there are factors indicating that the confession may be a false confession, are cases that are initially examined to determine if reinvestigation is appropriate.
Are all the clients whose cases are placed in the Reinvestigation Project Innocent?
No. The Reinvestigation Project is a non-DNA project. That means we can never know for certain whether a person is actually innocent. But since we do know the risk factors for wrongful convictions, and reinvestigate those cases in an effort to overturn convictions that were obtained based on the following risky evidence: faulty eye witness identification, false confessions, and unreliable testimony from cooperating witnesses.