Editorial: A useful watchdog for the state attorney

Tampa Bay Times
Published May 4, 2018

For prosecutors, securing a conviction is one thing. Serving justice can be another matter. That's why the idea by Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren to audit the performance of his office is good for the public and for prosecutors alike.

Warren said recently he intends to follow through on a promise from his 2016 campaign and install a conviction integrity unit in his office. The unit would examine select prosecutions to determine whether innocent people might have been sent to prison. Officials would screen cases for what Warren called "plausible claims of innocence," examining factors from changed witness testimony to discredited forensic evidence.

These units are in place in other prosecutors' offices throughout the country, and it's a credit to Warren that he sees its time has come for the Tampa Bay area. Every operation can benefit from re-examining its strengths and weaknesses. And it makes sense to hold the criminal justice system, which has the authority to imprison people and sentence them to death, as accountable as possible. Many young attorneys fresh out of law school cut their teeth by taking their first jobs as prosecutors or public defenders. By opening this unit, as early as this year, Warren is sending the right message to these attorneys about the ethical standards that come with the profession.