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Federal dollars will help St. Louis prosecutor look for wrongful convictions

James Cridland via Flickr

The City of St. Louis has received federal funding to review cases where the wrong person may be in prison.

Circuit attorney Kim Gardner and the Midwest Innocence Project will share $250,000 to establish a conviction integrity unit. The money will pay for the cost of an attorney in the prosecutor’s office who will be dedicated to handling the cases, and an investigator shared by the circuit attorney and the Innocence Project.

“Having the circuit attorney there changes everything about looking into these cases,” said Tricia Bushnell, the executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, which is based in Kansas City.

“Not anything about the quest for the truth, or whether or not a person is innocent, but about the ability to push a case more quickly. And some of that is because we can share our information with each other.”

The federal grant lasts for two years. Gardner said she will be looking for other sources of funding to keep the unit going beyond the life of the grant.

“This will not go away once any grant funding ends, because this is instrumental to the integrity of the prosecutor’s office.”

The unit should be operating by March. The hearing on the bill by the Board of Aldermen's Public Safety Committee to officially accept the grant was canceled last week, but Gardner says that shouldn’t affect the timeline. The hearing will be rescheduled. 

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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