Enquirer: After overturned convictions, Hamilton County prosecutor launches integrity unit

OIP Director Mark Godsey discusses challenges of Hamilton County’s proposed Conviction Integrity Unit.

The Cincinnati Enquirer recently published a story about efforts by the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office to establish a Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) to evaluate wrongful conviction claims. The Enquirer’s story raises questions about the reasons behind the effort and how the unit will operate.  

The effort is drawing criticisms from local defense attorneys, including the attorneys at the Ohio Innocence Project at Cincinnati Law.

"Given the poor way this office is currently handling several innocence cases, I have little hope that this is anything but a cynical political move," Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project, said of the unit in the Cincinnati Enquirer story.

Of the four homicide cases overturned since 2022, prosecutors maintain they were rightful convictions, despite judges finding flaws major enough to overturn them. Two of those cases involve OIP clients.

  • Marcus Sapp, convicted in 2010 of killing Andrew Cunningham. Judge Jody Luebbers overturned the conviction in January 2023 both because of questions about police’s use of a jailhouse informant and alleged violations of the Brady rule, which requires prosecutors disclose potentially exculpatory material to the defense.
  • Marty Levingston, convicted in 2008 of killing Michael Grace. Judge Wende Cross overturned the conviction in February 2023, again because of shaky jailhouse informant testimony and alleged Brady violations. Prosecutors agreed not to fight the order for a new trial on the condition that Levingston plead guilty to a lesser charge.

Commented Godsey in the Cincinnati Enquirer story, “in his experience with the Ohio Innocence Project, Hamilton County prosecutors refuse to consider that they could have made any mistakes.

"There's no attitude of, 'Let's try to be objective,'" Godsey said. "For these units to work, you have to have somebody who hasn't been there for 20 years, who's an outsider, who's been told, 'You have political insulation.'"

Read the full story here (paywall): After overturned convictions, Hamilton County prosecutor launches integrity unit

Lead photo: UC Photography

Related Stories