Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $573,637)
Travis County, in partnership with the Capital Area Private Defender Service and the City of Austin, submit this application for FY 21 Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence Program funds.
The proposed program is designed to address the needs of two distinct projects:
The APD DNA Review Project. In 2016, Austin’s former DNA laboratory was closed following an audit. Findings included the use of scientifically inappropriate stochastic threshold, use of validation studies that lacked data to support the use of that stochastic threshold, suspect-driven bias, and deviation from protocols and procedures by the analysts. The project focuses on assisting with cases potentially impacted.
The DPS DNA Mixture Review Project. This project focuses on discrepancies in the calculation of DNA statistics.
Both projects share the overarching goal of providing post-conviction DNA reanalysis and re-testing, where appropriate, in cases of violent felony offenses where actual innocence might be demonstrated. The program will be coordinated and conducted in overlapping phases: administrative, materiality review, evidence location, and ongoing DNA testing and reanalysis.
Program objectives are to identify cases that may require DNA analysis to prove actual innocence; to review post-conviction cases in which DNA analysis could prove actual innocence; to locate biological evidence associated with identified cases; and, to perform DNA analysis of appropriate biological evidence.
The program service area encompasses approximately 692 square miles of south central Texas hill country and is home to over a million residents. With this application, Travis County, Applicant and Fiscal Agent, requests $438,311 to hire two full-time attorneys. One attorney will be assigned to TCDAO ($208,433) and the other to CAPDS ($229,878). With hundreds of requests in pending status, the attorneys will conduct a parallel review of cases to identify possible wrongful convictions, assist with fact investigations, and navigate DNA issues related to criminal investigations. In addition to personnel costs, Travis County requests $61,689 to outsource for DNA testing. The types of testing and amounts associated with each case will vary. The County anticipates that 20-30 cases will require testing and 175 will require reanalysis.
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