Conviction Integrity and Sentencing Review Unit

This Unit shall review and investigate claims of innocence raised post-conviction involving non-negligent homicides, sex offenses and violent and serious felonies involving substantial prison commitments. The Unit will also examine claims brought pursuant to AB 2942 (PC 1170(d)), and claims based on unknown immigration consequences under PC 1473.7. The Unit may examine claims of innocence in other types of case if a significant prison commitment or collateral consequence indicates that an examination of the case is warranted. In addition, the Tuolumne County Conviction Integrity Unit shall be responsible for ensuring that any claim of Prosecutorial Misconduct made during the pendency of any criminal matter is thoroughly investigated and litigated prior to the completion of that pending criminal matter. The Unit shall consist of an assigned Deputy or Assistant District Attorney and the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Investigation Bureau. This Unit reports directly to the Elected District Attorney and is a “stand alone” unit in that it is separate from “post-conviction” work such as habeas corpus or appellate work. Where the claim is based upon innocence, i.e., newly discovered information or evidence, no assigned personnel shall conduct the examination and/or investigation into any matter that he/she was assigned as the primary prosecutor during the pendency of the initial prosecution. If the District Attorney was the primary prosecutor originally, then the unit shall report to the Assistant District Attorney. 

A: Case Review

The assigned Deputy or Assistant District Attorney shall prioritize the examination and review of cases as follows: Non-Negligent Homicides; Sexual Assault Cases; Violent and Serious Felony cases involving substantial state prison commitments; Other felony cases involving a substantial prison commitment or other significant collateral consequence. While cases wherein a defendant entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendre will not be excluded from review, as the possibility exists that an innocent defendant may have plead to a crime he/she did not commit to avoid a potential significant sentence, they require greater scrutiny and the Claim of Innocence initially submitted must be compelling. Particular scrutiny shall be paid to claims of actual innocence that cite newly discovered evidence that bears on innocence or that raise claims that have been found to be red flag issues such as misidentification, witness recantation, lying by an informant/cooperator, meaningful claims of alibi, or substantial Brady violations that would appear to involve actual innocence.

1. The standard applied by the Unit (in cases not based on arguments under Penal Code Sections 1170(d) or 1473.7) is that new evidence has been discovered that tends to show the defendant is innocent of one or more charges or enhancements of which the defendant was convicted. The new evidence of innocence can pertain to the elements of the charge or enhancement or a defense. In making this determination, the totality of the circumstances as they are now understood will be considered and evaluated.

2. Should relief be granted under circumstances where a retrial of the issues may be allowed, the decision to re-try the dismissed counts shall be decided by the Unit and may consider a plea to a lesser charge or enhancement in that circumstance.

3. At all required stages of the process, victim input shall be sought.

4. For cases under review, the reviewing attorney may contact the investigating agency for input as appropriate.

5. When credible evidence of prosecutorial or police misconduct is discovered during the course of case evaluation, such will be reported to appropriate regulatory or law enforcement entities, as appropriate.

B: Caveats

1. As a general policy we will not investigate, in the absence of other compelling justification, claims where a defendant knew or should have known the basis of his/her current claim at the time of the conviction, or where the defendant now disavows his/her trial testimony and proffers a different theory of innocence. In addition, except where there is a compelling showing that a plea was entered to avoid a more significant sanction, the defendant must have continually maintained his/her innocence from the inception of the case.

2. On a case-by-case basis, the Unit may also examine cases in which legal error in the sentencing occurred though not addressed by the appellate process.

3. The Unit ordinarily will not consider case submissions raising the same issue(s) currently pending appeal unless the error is plain from the circumstances.

4. If DNA testing is requested, it must comport with statutory requirements and there must be a nexus shown between the testing and a fact material to the conviction. Re-testing of material will only be considered if there is a reasonable possibility of a different result, e.g., new technology with testing is likely to yield a result where a prior result using old science was inconclusive. A private lab qualified to do the work and one which does DNA testing in the ordinary course of business may be used by the defense, at their expense, for the testing so long as the sample is not consumed so much that further testing cannot be performed.

5. Should a case meet the basic criteria for review, the defense attorney for that case shall be notified and be given the chance to offer input on the investigation or consideration. In all cases in which new evidence is discovered that meets the criteria under California State Bar Rule 5-110(f) and (g), all appropriate disclosures and other efforts shall be taken as provided by those rules.

C: Sentencing Review Under PC 1170(d)

The Unit will also review submissions for resentencing under PC 1170(d). Part of conviction integrity includes the examination of certain lengthy prison terms to verify that they are still warranted. After a thorough review, some prison terms, though valid, may prove to no longer be necessary to protect public safety because the ends of accountability, protection and rehabilitation are met. AB 2942/PC 1170(d) allows prosecutors to revisit sentences in the interest of justice. Absent exceptional circumstances, the criteria of the program is (a) the inmate has served at least seven (7) years of a prison term that is at least fifteen (15) years, (b) the inmate is not serving a prison term for a crime listed as “serious” under Penal Code Section 1192.7(c), or a crime listed under Section 667.5(c) a.k.a. “violent” crimes, (c) the inmate is not a 290 registrant, and (d) the inmate has never been convicted of a crime listed under Penal Code Section 667(e)(2) (iv), a.k.a. a “super strike.” The Unit will conduct a thorough review of the case and of the inmate’s history in prison, including efforts made towards rehabilitation, to determine if early release is appropriate. The Unit will give particular consideration to “youthful offenders” sentenced to state prison.

This Unit was established in January 2023 by District Attorney Cassandra Ann Jenecke. 

For more information or case submission requests, please contact Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Novelli at (209) 588 - 5450 or