Queens District Attorney candidate Mina Malik presented her plan to implement a Conviction Review Unit in the DA’s office at a gathering of her supporters near the Queens County Criminal Court in Kew Gardens on June 5.
She was joined by David McCallum who in 1986 was wrongfully convicted of murder at the age of 16 and spent nearly 30 years behind bars.
Malik, recruited by the late Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson to serve as his Special Counsel, helped to create a Conviction Review Unit that has since become a standard of criminal reform nationally. After re-examining his case, it was discovered that the prosecutor in McCallum’s case had manipulated him into a false confession, the conviction review unit overturned the decision and he was exonerated in 2014.
“Mina Malik quite literally saved my life,” McCallum said. “Had it not been for her, I’d be sitting in prison for the rest of my life for a crime I did not commit. Mina got me the justice I deserved. Queens needs a CRU like the one she helped build in Brooklyn.”
McCallum’s attorney Oscar Michelen concurred.
“I support Mina Malik because Queens does not have to sacrifice experience to get real reform,” Michelen said. “Mine helped develop the most successful CRU in the nation in Brooklyn and can be trusted to do the same for Queens County. She is the only candidate that brings both proven progress and first hand experience.”
Malik, the former executive director of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, laid out her plans to create the Queens County Conviction Review Unit (QC-CRU) focusing particularly on cases prosecuted during the predatory tough-on-crime and “war on drugs” era simply in the interest of justice.
“Sometimes, even if a case is legally and factually sound, continues incarceration is nonetheless unjust,” Malik said. “This is particularly apt to be true for cases prosecuted during the tough-on-crime era, when sentences were often far in excess of a defendant’s culpability.”
The QC-CRU will also proactively and carefully address convictions that relied on discredited police and prosecutorial practices that have since been deemed flawed, as well as every case that contains a plausible claim of innocence or constitutional error.
Malik made Carlton Roman her case in point. The now 56-year-old Roman is serving a 43-year-to-life sentence for a double shooting in Jamaica in March 1989 where one man died and another was seriously wounded.
Since his arrest, Roman has maintained his innocence.
“No system fashioned by human hands is flawless,” Malik said. “As Queens District Attorney I will work tirelessly to make the criminal justice system fairer for every resident of Queens County. I am committed to leading a cultural and attitudinal shift in the Queens District Attorney’s office. The QC-CRU will help drive this change as the office moves towards the 21st century model of progressive prosecution.”
Malik will face Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, City Councilman Rory Lancman, Judge Greg Lasak, public defender Tiffany Cabán and prosecutors Jose Nieves and Betty Lugo in the June 25 Democratic primary .