Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $550,000)
The Washington State Patrol through the Crime Laboratory Division (WSPCLD) is responsible for analyzing evidential material associated with criminal investigations for all state and local law enforcement agencies and medical examiners within the state. Under state law (RCW 43.43.756) the WSPCLD is the established public provider of Forensic DNA services in Washington State. There are 5 casework DNA laboratories located throughout the state: Seattle, Tacoma, Marysville, Vancouver and Spokane. Additionally, there is one CODIS databasing laboratory, located in the same facility as the Seattle Crime Laboratory.
WSPCLD seeks to sustain and improve access to postconviction DNA testing for Washington prisoners through its innovative and successful partnership with the Washington Innocence Project (WashIP). Previously named Innocence Project Northwest, WashIP was founded in 1997 as the third innocence organization in the country. WashIP is the only organization in Washington dedicated to freeing innocent people from prison through post-conviction proceedings, and carries the lessons of exoneration cases into the policymaking process to promote changes that will prevent wrongful convictions in the future.
The Washington Postconviction DNA Initiative addresses critical needs to:
1) ensure WSPCLD provides innocent prisoners with timely access to DNA technologies,
2) sustain and increase WashIP’s capacity to move cases through the complex case review process and secure DNA testing orders, and
3) engage in targeted outreach to make our services available to innocent prisoners from underserved and minority populations.
Over the past decade, the Washington Postconviction DNA Initiative has located evidence, undertaken complex case reviews, and utilized cutting edge DNA technology to identify and remedy wrongful convictions. The efforts of the Initiative have resulted in 5 exonerations of innocent individuals. This led to the identification and/or arrest of likely perpetrators in 3 cases, and the remaining 2 hold the potential for future CODIS identifications.
Without grant support, the Initiative will lose valuable ground on cases in progress, delaying or jeopardizing freedom for the many innocent prisoners who have nowhere else to turn for help.