Department of Justice Provides States with Funding
for Testing in Postconviction Cases
Virginia Receives $4.5 Million to Investigate Innocence Claims
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced over $4.5 million to the State of Virginia to help defray costs associated with reviewing of cases where DNA testing and evidence may prove actual innocence. Awarded by the DOJ's Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the funding is one of five competitive awards provided to Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, and Washington totaling over $7.8 million.
“Postconviction DNA testing has received significant attention in recent years with the arrival of forensic DNA analysis,” said OJP Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey L. Sedgwick. “More than two hundred people have been exonerated through DNA analysis of crime scene evidence that was not tested at the time of trial. These awards are another important step in implementing the President's DNA Initiative in an effort to protect the innocent and to bring the guilty to justice".
Administered by OJP's National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the awards are the first to be provided through OJP's Post Conviction Testing Assistance Program, which also requires recipient states to comply with improved standards regarding biological evidence storage and testing procedures. The funding will be used to review cases of forcible rape, murder, and non-negligent manslaughter, and locate and analyze evidence connected with the cases.
The State of Virginia proposes to use the grant funds to support the review of an estimated 2,200 postconviction cases, with as many as 5,600 DNA samples being subjected to testing and analysis. Virginia's Department of Forensic Sciences (VDFS) proposes using VDFS DNA analysts on an overtime basis to conduct the data review of resulting eligible cases.
The President's DNA Initiative, Advancing Justice through DNA Technology, provides funding, training, and assistance to ensure that forensic DNA reaches its full potential to solve crimes, protect the innocent, and identify missing persons. DNA testing is not only a predominant forensic technique for identifying criminals, but has become a method of post-conviction exoneration of the innocent. DNA testing makes it possible to obtain conclusive results in cases in which previous testing had been inconclusive or non-existent.
The methods used to collect, preserve, and test DNA evidence are critical to the success of its use in criminal cases. An NIJ publication, Postconviction DNA Testing: Recommendations for Handling Requests is the result of an NIJ working group on postconviction issues and provides recommendations for prosecutors, defense counsels, courts, victims' advocates, and laboratory personnel when receiving requests for postconviction DNA testing. The publication is available on NIJ's DNA Initiative website at www.dna.gov/uses/postconviction/handling-requests.
The Office of Justice Programs, headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has five component bureaus: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime. Additionally, OJP has two program offices: the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART). More information can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.