The Irony In The Integrity Of Convictions by Ashleigh Smith

Forward By Christopher

In numerous states there are units at the level of the Office of the Attorney General which periodically examine the integrity of legal actions at the hands of investigators, prosecutors and judges. These ‘integrity’ units have come about within the past 15 years due to prosecutorial, investigative and judicial misconduct nationwide resulting in wrongful or improperly convicted persons.

On the surface these units provide checks and balances. Beneath the surface they reveal patterns of abuse that in some jurisdictions are endemic. In some instances the public learns of these abuses when high profile cases draw media attention, but most don’t rise to that level of scrutiny.

I know men and women who were innocent but wrongfully convicted due to intentional misconduct by prosecutors and then exonerated after investigations by integrity units prompted by organizations like The Innocence Project.

At my institution alone, I’ve witnessed the exoneration of 3 persons. Their releases were accompanied by much media fanfare, and in one of the cases the state of Ohio was sued for 20 years of wrongful imprisonment and paid out a million dollar sum. In my opinion, there is no amount of money that can make up for 20 years of pain and suffering you and your family endure while you are behind bars. Especially if innocent.

Once convicted of a crime it is nearly impossible to prove one’s innocence. This is especially true for the majority of the nation’s inmates for they come from low income or poor backgrounds. Even inmates whose families have resources are rarely successful without the assistance of a major national organization.

Ashley Smith is incarcerated in Michigan and her conviction has been flagged for review by Michigan’s Conviction Integrity Unit due to inconsistencies by prosecutors and investigators in her case. Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project is working together with state investigators.

Ashley is serving time for 2nd degree murder related to her still born child. She wrote about her experience in Generational Shame  in October 2022 and is a regular contributor to this blog.


Ashleigh – The Irony In The Integrity Of Convictions

I don’t know how familiar any of you may be with the movement in recent years for counties and even states to set up “Conviction Integrity Units, sort of prosecutorial task force designed to do additional checks and balances on the integrity in which their office prosecutes cases. The only problem is that the cases they’re doing these checks and balances on the “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” party has been an involuntary guest to the state for 10, 15, hell 40 years. I guess the philosophy our justice system was built on, that it’s far better to let 10 guilty persons go free than to imprison one innocent, hasn’t been the standard for…well at least 40 years now.

I’m talking about this with you for a couple of reasons. 1) How is this not a way bigger movement to rectify wrongs done to citizens by the state? Is it because of ego? I think that being humble, especially against a “criminal” (although if there’s issues with the conviction we may be playing it a little fast and loose with the whole criminal label) would be extremely hard to overcome if I was in the prosecutors shoes. But so was law school, and so is prison, so that will only go so far. This is not a time to double down on the stubborn. Let’s try to use these CIU’s how they should be.

2) My other reason for talking about this is, after serving 14 1/2 years on an 18 year front I ironically find my case at the highest level CIU in the state, the Office of the Attorney General. Immediately flagged for “unreliable forensic issues”, the head of the CIU decided to have Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project work on it in tandem. I’m quite sure these unreliable forensic issues the Attorney General sniffed out upon discovery of two separate autopsy reports, each submitted 9 months apart from the other. That, along with the state’s forensic pathologist admitting in open court the only reason he “amended” his report 9 months later from an equivocal exam to a homicide (kinda a big deal) was because the detective and the prosecutor asked him to. Is that what they mean when they say integrity?

I wrote about my circumstance some in the post  Generational Shame.  After my main support system died (see my post  The First Year Without My Dad ) I literally have nobody to be my voice to make sure I don’t get lost in the shuffle of other, louder, more advocated cases. Such a double edged sword.

Fourteen and a half years ago I had a lot of support, people ready to squad up and right this wrong. My family sat in horror and were traumatized while they watched as I was traumatized by the justice system. It’s one you likely only know about figuratively unless you or a loved one has been through it literally (my condolences). Now, there are barriers in place, protections from feeling that again, and I can’t blame anyone. I’ll take the hit. It’s my freedom on the line after all, and if prison does one thing to you it makes you strong. But it would be too much of me to ask the couple of people I still have to emotionally depend on at all to get re-violated.

So if you see a campaign or know of a worthy cause to right a wrongly convicted person, spread the word for a person who may not have people left to spread it for them. Do some good, Who knows how much you could change that person’s future?

Ashleigh Smith
(WHV) (MI)

*Lettersfromchristopher was created in 2019 to draw attention to the plight of America’s incarcerated. Please, submit a comment if your heart moves you. Your thoughts and words are refreshing wells of relief, and the writers of this blog express gratitude for your kindness.

Be sure to see the newly updated “About Christopher” page for bios of contributing writers to this blog.



15 thoughts on “The Irony In The Integrity Of Convictions by Ashleigh Smith

    1. nathan brown

      Ashleigh i love your post and agree with it entirely. Many people have been vicitimized by the injustice in America. I hope they work hard to overturn your case and free you from prison after 14 years. I was on the inside and i witness with my own eyes many injustices that sent people to prison for many, many years. I believe we call it, over prosecuted or if you don’t have a lot of money to hire an attorney and your stuck with a public defender, your only option may be a plea bargain of a life sentence. What’s a plea bargain of a life sentence? 50 to 90 years in prison? Or if the DA or Judge are up for re-election and they need one more conviction to meet their quota for re-election and they have your case. Your option of going home to your family is off the table.

  1. tiffanydaud

    I don’t want understand why it took so many years before this unit took a look at your situation. You’ve been locked up for a long time, 2009 according to Michigan DOCs site.

    I read your post about losing your dad since you’ve been in prison and I’m sorry. That a prosecutor could or would for that matter do what they did to you. It makes me wonder how many other people have been sent to prison by this prosecutor on false information. I don’t know any more about your situation, but if you are freed you should pursue charges against these people.

    1. Ashleigh

      Thank you so much for listening to my story, yes it did take a long time for my case to get looked into because of the political climate about incarceration reform then, it’s finally shifting. Prosecutors that did business according to their own agendas now will have to explain their actions, which will hopefully lead to less renegade public servants. As far as pursuing charges, I just want my freedom and refuse to end up on trial again due to a need for revenge, but I do understand why that would be a thought from an outside observer.
      *Posted by admin on behalf of Ashleigh

    1. Ashleigh

      Power, when unchecked, corrupts. This is true in every level of public service and we as a society need to implement systems of checks and balances so they don’t become irreparably corrupted.
      *Posted by admin on behalf of Ashleigh

  2. thomasrice87

    “…the state’s forensic pathologist admitting in open court the only reason he “amended” his report 9 months later from an equivocal exam to a homicide (kinda a big deal) was because the detective and the prosecutor asked him to.”
    This is the most shocking statement I’ve ever read. An elected official like a prosecutor committing this act is mind blowing. Playing with people’s lives. A detective and prosecutor colluding together to win a case? I hope you pursue action against these people once you are released.

    1. Ashleigh

      Members of the police often collaborate with members of the DA office in preparing for trial. When the defendant is automatically viewed as less than, often violating moral, ethical or even actual laws or court rules doesn’t matter much in the scope of winning, in keeping a defendant down.
      *Posted by admin on behalf of Ashleigh

  3. mariamasulli41

    I wish you luck Ms. Smith. There are bad people in the world and they aren’t always in prison. 🙏

  4. Zev

    I’ve seen this in my professional career. I don’t want to say that it is pervasive, but it is a problem. Justice for victim sometimes overshadows rational acts. No matter one’s opinion of a matter at hand the law must be adhered. It appears that in the pursuit of Justice for a victim another victim(s) has been created. There are moral issues at play and time will address them. CIU can address this, but rarely do improper acts go punished. The author of this post will need to seek remedy against the person’s involved separately should a court overturn previous decisions.

  5. Jennifer

    I’ve learned the hard way when my brother went to prison that corruption like this is common place. There are no checks and balances at the lower level.

  6. christopherm001

    Ashleigh’s situation isn’t unique save for the fact that MI attorney general’s office has flagged her case due to unprofessional conduct by prosecutor and investigator. Prosecutorial misconduct and collusion with investigators is shockingly common across the country. –Christopher

    *Posted by admin on behalf of Christopher

  7. Ashleigh

    My story of unprofessional conduct during my entire history with state workers, in my case is not in any way unique. It’s important for everyone to realize the severity of our justice systems problems. Although in my case the bar of misconduct is quite high it costs in so many peoples cases at some level. The stereotypes of society towards felons or incarcerated people are just that — stereotypes. They are not at all indicative of the actual people. If you are reading this, you are already a part of the solution. Thank you.
    *Posted by admin on behalf of Ashleigh

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