Moriarty’s office hires Innocence Project attorney to review past convictions

In a recent article, Moriarty wrote that she ran for county attorney in order to "redefine prosecution."

Andrew Markquart speaks at a December 2023 press conference after Marvin Haynes' conviction was overturned. (Hennepin County Attorney/YouTube)

An attorney with the Great North Innocence Project has been hired by Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty to head the office’s new Conviction Integrity Unit.

Andrew Markquart will be assisting Moriarty in examining convictions of Minnesotans who have applied to have their cases reviewed by the unit, her office announced Monday in a press release. The unit will “review cases to rectify wrongful convictions and identify mistakes in past prosecutions.” 

The office has its origins in the Conviction Review Unit (CRU) announced by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in August 2021.

Markquart was involved in the overturning of Marvin Haynes’ conviction last December. Haynes had previously been sentenced to life imprisonment after he was convicted of shooting Harry Sherer to death in a flower shop in May 2004. His conviction was overturned because “Haynes’ conviction relied on the testimony of eyewitnesses who ‘expressed doubts about their identifications to investigators,’” according to the Great North Innocence Project.

Despite the presence of the existing unit, Moriarty has endeavored to form a separate unit for Hennepin County specifically because “Hennepin County has the most cases in Minnesota, the most people in prison, and so it makes sense for our office to form one to focus on those types of cases,” she previously told MPR.

“Prosecutors provide a vital public service. They work hard every day to ensure that those who commit acts of violence and victimize community members face accountability for their actions,” Moriarty said in a statement Monday. No prosecutor here wants to see someone convicted for a crime they did not commit, the actual perpetrator free to do more harm, or victims left with questions.” 

Meanwhile, she recently published an article at Inquest describing her motivation to become Hennepin County Attorney and her vision for the prosecutorial office. Moriarty declared that three decades as a public defender saw her defending those who “came into the system having experienced horrific abuse and neglect, traumatizing them in ways that led them to cause harm to others” and alleged that prosecutors “‘othered’ them in ways that contributed to mass incarceration and did nothing to keep the community safe.”

On her decision to run, Moriarty stated that she “had represented many young Black men with extensive and lengthy histories of trauma going back to early childhood. While it was clear to me that they would not be sitting next to me had there been effective early intervention, there was nothing I could do about that as a public defender. But as Hennepin County Attorney I would have the ability to change the system, improving outcomes for individual people and the broader community.”

Moriarty added, “if our continued definition of a prosecutor’s main function is to criminalize, prosecute, and punish, expecting prosecutors to play a significant role in ending mass incarceration will be fruitless. If, however, we demand that prosecutors focus on effective problem-solving, there is no one better situated — within the criminal legal system — to end mass incarceration.”


Evan Poellinger

Evan Poellinger, the Alpha News Summer 2024 Journalism Fellow, is a native Minnesotan with a lifelong passion for history and politics. He previously worked as a journalism intern with the American Spectator and an investigative journalism fellow with the Media Research Center. He is a graduate of College of the Holy Cross with degrees in political science and history.