Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $573,637)
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s (DA’s) Office has been a leading force in the use of DNA technology to exonerate the innocent. In 2019, the DA’s Laboratory of Forensic Services processed DNA evidence which exonerated Ricky Davis from a 2nd degree murder conviction in a 1985 homicide case in nearby El Dorado County and led to the arrest of the actual perpetrator. Davis was incarcerated for approximately 15 years in state prison for the wrongful conviction. The DA’s Office is committed to pursuing justice at the highest level of integrity. The goal of this program is to review DNA related violent felony cases and determine if biological evidence from those cases could prove the actual innocence of the incarcerated individual.
Objective 1: Identify potential postconviction DNA testing cases.
The DDA and DA Investigative Assistant will review the potential post-conviction DNA testing cases through the DA’s Case Management system, Public Defender, and Conflict Criminal Defense Panel referrals, outside agency requests, online requests, Petitions for Writ of Habeas Corpus, and Penal Code section 1405 motions.
Objective 2: Review appropriate postconviction cases to identify those in which DNA testing could prove the actual innocence of a person convicted of a violent felony offense as defined by California Penal Code section 667.5(c).
The DDA and DA Investigative Assistant will review the case files or documentation of post-conviction cases of violent felony offenses to determine whether biological evidence exists that might, through DNA analysis, demonstrate the actual innocence of the person previously convicted.
Objective 3: Locate biological evidence associated with post-conviction cases.
Following a case review, the DA Investigative Assistant will seek to locate biological evidence that, through DNA analysis, might demonstrate actual innocence. This includes searching files, storage facilities, and evidence rooms.
Objective 4: Perform DNA analysis of appropriate biological evidence and report and review DNA test results.
The program will fund up to 912 overtime hours for DA Criminalists who will examine and extract biological evidence, triage future DNA testing based on the DNA quantitation results, develop DNA profiles if possible, and/or outsource DNA extracts for sequencing.
The funds sought for this project will seek to eliminate errors or misconduct associated with wrongful conviction cases and utilize modern forensic science to convey objective conclusions based on accurate and reliable scientific techniques.