The Mission of the Conviction Review Unit

The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit ("CRU") examines credible, investigatable claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction and presents findings and recommendations to the District Attorney. The CRU strives to conduct thorough case reviews and where an evidence-based review leads the District Attorney to lose confidence in the integrity of the conviction, to seek appropriate remedies.

As a general matter, for a case to be considered for CRU review there should be one or more avenues of investigation that have the potential to substantiate the applicant’s claim of actual innocence or wrongful conviction. Claims are investigated based on their factual merit, without regard to procedural barriers to legal review.

Is the CRU an innocence project?

No, the CRU is part of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. CRU attorneys may work collaboratively with innocence attorneys or defense attorneys, but the CRU reports to the District Attorney. CRU attorneys cannot legally or ethically offer legal advice to applicants or their representatives, and the attorney-client privilege does not apply to any information included in an applicant’s communications with the CRU.

What cases will the CRU consider for review?

The CRU can only consider requests for review of convictions that were prosecuted by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. Federal convictions – including ones resulting from proceedings in the federal court in White Plains – cannot be considered. The CRU reviews convictions resulting from pleas and from trial verdicts. Priority may be given to people who are incarcerated.

Requests for review must present a non-frivolous, investigatable claim of actual innocence or wrongful conviction.

What does it mean that the claim is investigatable?

It means that the CRU has concluded that there is something specific and non-speculative that can be looked into and that would support the applicant’s claim that they are actually innocent or were wrongfully convicted. For example: (1) new or previously undisclosed or unexamined evidence or facts (including new understandings about the validity or reliability of certain evidence or testimony) that could call into question the guilt of the convicted person or the fundamental fairness of the proceedings, or (2) exculpatory evidence that was not investigated, or not fully investigated, at the time of the trial/plea.

How is CRU review different than an appeal?

An appeal is a judicial process where a convicted person asks an appellate court to consider issues that arose at their trial or plea. Virtually all claims raised on appeal are legal errors, meaning that the convicted person is arguing that something happened at the plea or the trial that violated the law. These arguments are reviewed by a panel of judges who consider the issues and hand down a written decision either affirming the conviction or granting some kind of relief.

CRU review is not an appeal, and it is not a process to reconsider issues already raised on appeal. It is an extrajudicial and fact-based review conducted by the CRU, a part of the District Attorney’s office specifically designated to look at claims of actual innocence and wrongful conviction.

What if I have already filed an appeal or a 440 motion in my case?

As a general matter, because CRU review is not an adversarial proceeding, the CRU will not act on a request for review if there is a pending appeal or other post-conviction proceeding such as a CPL 440 motion. If an appeal or post-conviction motion is filed while a request for review is pending or being actively investigated, the CRU will suspend work until the litigation is completed.

Note that making a request to the CRU for review does not extend or toll any appellate or federal habeas deadlines.

How do I apply for CRU review?

A request may be made through:

  • A letter from an attorney representing a convicted person on the case being challenged.
  • A letter and Consent Form and/or completed CRU Review Request Form and Consent Form from the convicted person. (Put another way, the convicted person can explain their case in a letter or by filling out the Review Request Form. But either way, a signed Consent Form must be submitted.)

Read the CRU Review Request and Consent Forms. If a request is made by letter, and does not include a Consent Form, a form will be mailed to the convicted person for their review and signature.

Please note that, if a convicted person is represented by counsel, a request for review must be made by their attorney.

The CRU strives to be accessible to all persons with wrongful conviction claims. Family members or advocates may assist applicants with disabilities or mental health, literacy, or language issues by helping them fill out the Request for Review/Consent forms. However, a signed Consent Form by the convicted person must be submitted before the case can be considered for review.

Requests should be emailed to convictionreview@westchesterda.net or mailed to:

Conviction Review Unit
Westchester County District Attorney's Office
111 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
White Plains, NY 10601

Requests for review must be done by letter or email. They cannot be made over the phone.

Include a mailing address for the CRU to contact the convicted person or their attorney. The CRU will contact the convicted person or attorney if more information is requested.

Due to the high volume of submissions, the CRU cannot confirm receipt of materials nor provide updates by phone or email.

What do I need to put in my request?

Applicants are urged to use the CRU Review Request and Consent Forms. If a request is made by letter, it must include:

  • The name of the convicted person
  • The case number
  • A mailing address for the convicted person
  • Specific information about why the case is one of actual innocence or wrongful conviction
  • Information about whether or not the convicted person is currently being represented by an attorney on the conviction they are seeking review of

Again, if the request is made by letter, it must include a Consent Form to be considered. 


How long will it take the CRU to decide my request?

The CRU is small and the initial evaluation of a request will take time, especially if the case is particularly complicated. Please be patient. The CRU will reject requests for review if it determines that no plausible or credible claim of actual innocence or wrongful conviction can be made or reasonably investigated.

What happens if a CRU investigation is opened?

If the CRU determines that a plausible and credible claim of actual innocence or wrongful conviction can be investigated, it will undertake a full investigation of the crime and the integrity of the evidence used to convict the applicant. This investigation may, but not necessarily, include forensic testing of physical evidence and witness interviews.

If an investigation is opened, it will be addressed in the order in which was received.

How are CRU investigations resolved?

The CRU will present its findings and recommendations to the District Attorney who will determine whether the conviction should be vacated or some other remedial measure taken.

A case that has been investigated will be rejected if the investigation fails to substantiate the claim of actual innocence or wrongful conviction. Rejections will be communicated in writing to the convicted person or their attorney. There is no appeal of this decision. However, a convicted person may file a post-conviction challenge to their conviction in state court. Cases that have been rejected can be resubmitted to the CRU if new and credible information to support the claim of actual innocence or wrongful conviction is later discovered.