Event at Tyler Perry Studios to support righting wrongful convictions

Credit: Curtis Compton / AJC.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / AJC.com

Officials and activists will gather tonight at Tyler Perry Studios to commemorate the Fulton County District Attorney's Office's new unit aimed at ferreting out wrongful convictions.

The Conviction Integrity Unit, which D.A. Paul Howard says is the first of its kind in the Southeast, got started last year and is examining past convictions by the DA's office to make sure the justice system got it right. The unit has already been looking into the case of Leo Frank, the Jewish Atlanta factory boss who in 1913 was convicted of murdering Mary Phagan, 13, and was subsequently lynched in Cobb County.

Tonight's event will feature remarks by former Atlanta Mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, as well as people who have been wrongfully convicted, including Yusef Salaam of the  Central Park Five, also known as the Exonerated Five.

The unit will consider re-investigating cases where a person who was convicted in Fulton County claims they are innocent, were sentenced unfairly or if justice wasn’t served for some other reason. To decide which cases to take up, the unit has an eight member panel to review applications. The members are: three Fulton prosecutors, a defense attorney, an attorney from the Georgia Innocence Project, a local minister, an attorney or administrator from a local college or law school and an attorney from the Georgia chapter of the NAACP.

The goal of tonight’s event is to commemorate the unit’s creation, as well as to host speakers who will tell about why the unit is necessary. The event may also serve as a conspicuous signal that Howard’s office is committed to the unit.