Philly agencies grapple with a wrongful conviction. Can they learn from their mistakes?

April 10, 2019

April 9, 2019, Samantha Melamed - The Philadelphia Inquirer

In 2012, George Cortez was convicted of murdering Nasif Murray on a street in North Philadelphia and sentenced to life without parole. Then, in 2016, after further investigation pointed to a different shooter, he was exonerated.

 

Cortez was shot dead at age 36, just two months after being released from prison. Now, Philadelphia’s justice agencies — including police, court, prosecutors, and public defenders — are hoping to learn from his case.

 

What went wrong and how to fix it is the subject of a new report by the Philadelphia Event Review Team, a collaboration between those agencies and the University of Pennsylvania’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice.

 

The Quattrone Center, part of Penn’s law school, is seeking to implement such reviews in jurisdictions across the country, and has received a $1.6 million National Institute of Justice grant to take the “Sentinel Event Review” model to between 12 and 20 more cities. Baltimore, Chicago, and Austin, Texas, have already signed on. The idea is to bring to criminal justice the approach long practiced in medicine, where post-mortem reviews examine where errors were introduced and how such failures can be prevented going forward.

 

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