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The Latest: Attorney general guarded on conviction review

April 9, 2019
Bill Clutter, a private investigator who started the Illinois Innocence Project in 2001 and now runs a similar program from Louisville, Ky., discusses his proposal for the Illinois attorney general to create a "conviction integrity unit" to investigate claims of actual innocence by people convicted of crimes Tuesday, April 9, 2019, at the state Capitol, in Springfield, Ill. He is holding the clemency petition for the case he's currently pursuing, the conviction of Thomas McMillen in the 1989 abduction and murder of Melissa Koontz of Springfield. (AP Photo/ John O'Connor)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Latest on a proposed Illinois “conviction integrity unit” (all times local):

5:40 p.m.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul (KWAH’-may RAW’-ool) is noncommittal about a proposal to create a statewide investigative unit to review claims of innocence by those convicted of crimes.

The Democrat said through a spokeswoman Tuesday that ensuring a conviction is correct by evaluating new evidence or circumstances “is the responsibility of every prosecutor.”

Private investigator Bill Clutter wrote Raoul to suggest a statewide “conviction integrity unit” to investigate innocence claims. Clutter helped create the Illinois Innocence Project which has worked to exonerate 12 convicted people since 2001.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has a conviction integrity unit. Clutter says there should be a statewide team for those counties too small to support their own. He says a prosecutor’s job is to ensure justice but human nature is to be defensive of potential errors or omissions.

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2 p.m.

The co-founder of a group that has cleared a dozen people wrongfully convicted of crimes wants the Illinois attorney general to create a “conviction integrity unit” to investigate innocence claims.

Bill Clutter helped create the Illinois Innocence Project in 2001. Now he does similar work in Kentucky.

He said on Tuesday that he wrote Attorney General Kwame Raoul (KWAH’-may RAW’-ool) and pitched the idea. He says nonprofit innocence projects can take limited action without law enforcement authority. And most counties are too small to have investigative units.

Raoul’s office did not immediately comment.

Illinois is notorious for wrongful convictions. It abolished the death penalty in 2011.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office initiated a conviction integrity unit in 2012. A spokeswoman says 70 people have had convictions reversed since 2017.