Professor Bruce Green comments to Bloomberg on questionable practices that were used in wrongful conviction cases by the California Attorney General’s Office while now Senator Kamala Harris was the acting Attorney General.
Diaz was convicted in 1984 of rape and attempted rape. He was paroled in 1993, became a registered sex offender, and began the work of proving his innocence. It took 19 years for his conviction to be reversed — and two more years for the State of California to grant him compensation for the time he was wrongfully imprisoned.
Diaz’s battle with Harris’ office began in 2012 when a judge reversed his conviction. As state attorney general, her staff vigorously resisted his claim for compensation and tried to make him re-register as a sex offender, despite a formal ruling in April 2013 that he was innocent.
The Diaz case is one of a series of battles Harris’ prosecutors waged — in both the offices of San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general — to resist innocence claims, often using technical timeliness or jurisdictional arguments, lawyers and innocence advocates say.
“The sex-offender registration thing is really indefensible,” said Bruce Green, a professor at Fordham Law School in New York and a former federal prosecutor who was chairman of the American Bar Association’s criminal justice standards committee.
“The idea that some innocent person should have to labor under the branding of a sex offender for the rest of their lives because they didn’t meet the technical requirements, that’s just wrong,” Green said.
Newly-elected attorneys general, Green said, often find a certain culture and set of practices in place in the offices when they take charge. “If you start to overturn convictions others obtained, it doesn’t make you popular with your staff,” he said. “Prosecutors’ offices have an important duty to exonerate wrongly convicted people, just as they do to do justice for those who are guilty. But historically, that wasn’t viewed as part of the job.”