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AG Nessel Conviction Integrity Unit Surpasses Federal DNA Grant Goals

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Attorney General’s (DAG) Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) announces the successful completion of their 2019 Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence grant. The three-year project helped support the review of hundreds of cases and the release of four individuals: Gilbert Lee Poole Jr., Corey McCall, and George and Melvin DeJesus.

"These cases serve as examples of the important work being done by our Conviction Integrity Unit," Nessel said. "When I established this team in 2019, I made a commitment to ensuring those convicted of state crimes are in fact guilty while also providing justice to those wrongfully imprisoned."

The success of this project would not have been possible without the support of local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies. These various agencies worked collaboratively with the CIU to ensure the unit had access to materials and physical evidence to investigate cases. The team also worked collaboratively with Conviction Integrity Units from Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw Counties.


Gilbert Poole was released in 2021 after serving 32 years for a crime he did not commit. "I am finally able to enjoy my life," Poole said. "I now can choose how to spend my days, including working on house projects, building my dream garage, and giving back to others who are trying to prove their innocence. I am beyond thankful to Attorney General Nessel and her entire CIU for giving me my life back.” Mr. Poole is enrolled in Lansing Community College for legal studies and will begin this fall.

Corey McCall was wrongfully sentenced to life in prison without parole before being exonerated in 2021. McCall has since married and purchased a new home. He is working full time and caring for his family.

The DeJesus Brothers, George and Melvin, were released in 2022 after spending 27 years in separate prisons. The brothers are now able to spend the time together that they lost and have purchased a home. They have been travelling the country to visit family they were not able to see for decades.


In 2019, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), part of the U.S. Department of Justice, awarded the department $734,930 to review 300 cases to determine if DNA testing could help demonstrate innocence. The funding supported the cost of case reviews, locating evidence, DNA testing of evidence, and hiring of additional staff.

“This grant project has been invaluable to the work of this Unit,” said Nessel. “I also want to recognize the hard work of the attorneys, investigators and staff in my office, the many local agencies, and the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project who all spend hundreds of hours reviewing these challenging cases.”

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project partnered with the CIU on this project to help screen and identify cases for DNA testing. The offices worked collaboratively to protect the rights of victims and defendants throughout the entire case review.

"Working with the DAG CIU revolutionized our case review and investigation process,” Tracey Brame, Director of the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project said. “Defendants and victims benefitted from the collaborative nature of our work. We were able to streamline the review of cases as well as share expertise and resources, leading to a more thorough and efficient resolution."


Assistant Attorneys General, investigators, support staff, and interns spent more than 8,622 hours on this project. The CIU was able to review 620 cases - more than double their projected goal of 300 cases.

The CIU worked collaboratively with local law enforcement property rooms to confirm the existence of physical evidence in 17 cases. This required an extensive tracking system that followed every piece of evidence from collection by the original investigating agency to present day.

Once evidence was confirmed, the CIU worked collaboratively with defense counsel to develop a DNA testing plan. Ultimately, nine cases were submitted for DNA testing, and the grant helped fund the DNA testing at private laboratories.

In one example, the CIU worked collaboratively with a local law enforcement agency to confirm the existence of a Sexual Assault Kit that was collected in a 1988 case. This evidence had previously been reported as destroyed. The Kit was then submitted for DNA testing and the results led to additional investigative angles. The CIU’s collaboration with that agency and dedication to justice made the discovery of the evidence possible.


In 2022, the department received another BJA Postconviction DNA Testing of Evidence grant for $550,000 for another three-year project. The CIU intends to review another 300 cases to determine whether new DNA testing can help demonstrate innocence.

Of the DNA Project, McCall added: "I'm thankful to the Attorney General’s office for taking the time to review my case. There are many more people that went through what I have, and I believe everyone should want the AG’s office to have the funding and resources to keep up with their incredible work."

The current grant will also support a new special project, the “Preserving Evidence Project,” that will help ensure physical evidence is preserved in cases where it may help prove the identity of the perpetrator. This will ensure justice for victims, for the community, and for the wrongfully convicted.


The CIU also reviews and investigates cases in which DNA is not a factor. In 2023, The CIU worked in collaboration with the Department’s Criminal Trials and Appeals Division, the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office and the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic to uncover previously undisclosed evidence, resulting in a new trial for Jeff Titus.  

Titus was convicted in a 1990 murder of two hunters in Kalamazoo County and spent 33 years in prison before being released in February of this year. After reviewing the previously withheld evidence which pointed to an alternative suspect, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting dropped the charges against Titus.

The Titus case was not a part of the DNA project but is the first in which the CIU has identified new evidence that undermined an original conviction, leading to a new trial.

In June, the Michigan legislature appropriated $1 million to the CIU for the 2024 Fiscal Year to help address the backlog of applications and to continue supporting the unit’s work.

Nessel added, “The success of the Conviction Integrity Unit is illustrated not only by the four exonerations reviewed as a part of the DNA Project, but also the outcome in Mr. Titus’s case, and the hundreds of cases we have thoroughly evaluated since 2019. We appreciate the legislature and Governor’s continued support for the program.”

Attorney General Nessel launched the CIU in 2019. The unit investigates credible claims of innocence to determine whether there is substantial evidence that reveals if a convicted person was wrongfully accused and convicted.

To date, the CIU has received more than 1,900 requests for assistance and has reviewed and closed over 1,000 requests. The Unit is comprised of Director and Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Robyn Frankel, AAG Lori Montgomery, Special Agents Khary Mason and Gentry Shelby, and Legal Secretary Shantel Word. The department also wishes to acknowledge the hard work of dozens of interns who have worked in the CIU during the fulfillment of these grant obligations.


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