Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $291,640)
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, since 1989 there have been 1,418 exonerations for violent crimes (homicide and sexual assaults). DNA evidence has been a contributing factor in approximately 32% of the exonerations (456 cases). In many cases, the DNA testing of evidence was never performed or limited by historical technologies. Locally, there have been seventy-nine (79) violent crime exonerations in Pennsylvania since 1989 with DNA testing as a contributing factor in seventeen (17) of these cases. In October of 2018, there were changes to the law in Pennsylvania (amendment to Chapter 95 of Title 42 in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes), which increased the amount of time available to file a postconviction relief request. Additionally, the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney created a Conviction Integrity Unit (DAO/CIU) in 2018 that has the responsibility of reviewing legitimate claims of innocence and wrongful convictions from convicted offenders. Since the expansion of the law and formation of the DAO Conviction Integrity Unit, there have been twenty (20) exonerations in the City of Philadelphia. The additional resources from the District Attorney concentrating on the postconviction reviews is expected to increase the requests for DNA analysis in postconviction relief cases. Since its formation, the Conviction Integrity Unit has worked closely with the OFS to review postconviction cases in the City of Philadelphia. Over the past three years, the CIU and OFS have created a team-working environment, where cases are reviewed to determine the best possible analysis plan. These reviews often involve the location and inventory of evidence, review of any previous forensic analyses, development of a testing plan and review of the results. If selected for this award, the City will leverage its existing framework for postconviction reviews. The DAO/CIU and OFS/Crim will continue to review cases on a regular basis, creating test plans for suitable evidence. The OFS intends to primarily use the grant funding for the outsourcing of DNA analysis to a vendor laboratory. Additional funding will be used for overtime to research, locate and package evidence, and for technical reviews of DNA data for CODIS entry. The proposed funding allocations will allow the OFS to respond to postconviction requests without negatively affecting current investigations. Over this grant period, it is expected that the CIU and OFS will identify approximately thirty-six (36) cases that may benefit from current DNA testing techniques.