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Wayne County Prosecutor's Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence Project

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $550,000)

Since its start in 2018, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit (“CIU”) has received over 2,000 requests for investigation. Approximately 12% of the requests involve testing or retesting of evidence. Requests for DNA testing of biological evidence has increased noticeably in the last few years; a trend that is expected to continue. The Prosecutor’s Office is underfunded and under resourced; its CIU has a small staff and a backlog of approximately 4 years. In an effort to expedite case review, acquisition of evidence, and testing of material DNA evidence, the CIU and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Innocence Project (“Cooley IP”) have partnered to develop this project proposal.

The goal of this project is to bring to conclusion 250 DNA-related cases involving claims of innocence for violent felony convictions out of Wayne County, MI, a county with the largest minority population in the state, using new technologies that hold the promise of viable testing results and strategies that expedite the entire process from case identification to testing.

Project partners will jointly review cases to determine whether testing might be beneficial to the determination of guilt or actual innocence. Each agency will pool resources, law clerks and law students, to expedite case identification and case review. Access to and testing of evidence will be expedited through the prosecutor’s office while Cooley IP’s project attorney will make the initial analysis regarding testing and testing facilities. CIU and Cooley IP teams will hold monthly meetings to address case-related issues, grant administration, and protocols.

Expected outcomes include 1) 250 DNA-related violent felony cases reviewed to assess whether DNA testing could prove actual innocence; (2) reduced turnaround time in completing postconviction DNA testing cases; (3) timely and thorough searches for evidence; (4) increased postconviction DNA testing (5) quality case review through the use of experts; (6) established best practices; (7) improved and enhanced endeavors to exonerate those who were wrongfully convicted and bring about greater access to justice and awareness of the disproportionate impact that wrongful convictions have on communities of color. Priority consideration 1(A); page 8.

Date Created: September 6, 2022