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UPR DNA Postconviction Project

Award Information

Award #
15PBJA-22-GG-01416-POST
Location
Congressional District
Status
Open
Funding First Awarded
2022
Total funding (to date)
$550,000

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

For the last two years, the DNA Post Conviction Project of the University of Puerto Rico, School of Law (DNA Project) has been receiving and evaluating wrongful conviction claims. The Project received 63 inmate requests to evaluate their cases. 41 cases have been evaluated. 21 are being evaluated at this moment. But more importantly, the case of Daniel Tovar Salomé has been identified as a wrongful conviction case. Presently, the DNA Postconviction Project has filed a request to the Bureau of Forensic Science in order to know if they conserve the biological evidence that was collected in 2001. The goal is to present a DNA motion, so Daniel Tovar Salomé can execute his right of a new trial. Currently, cases keep pouring.

Additionally, research is being conducted in the Project to create statistics about innocence people deprived of their liberty. At this time, a total of approximately 3,615 felony cases from 2001 to 2010 on direct appeal were evaluated. The purpose is to identify cases in which defendants made a pure claim of innocence.  A tacit or explicit claim of wrongful conviction were made in 66 cases. A preliminary conclusion suggests that, in 1.8% of the appeals in criminal cases a claim of wrongful conviction is made.

If said percentage is translated to the correctional population serving sentences for felony cases, which amounts to approximately 6,706 prisoners, it is reasonable to conclude that there may be approximately 120 cases of wrongful convictions.

The American Community Survey of the Census Bureau, classified in 2020 44.9 % of our territory as a “high poverty area”. [1] These statistics are reflected in our carceral system where approximately 7,000 people are deprived of their liberty According to the Vice President of Puerto Rico’s Public Defender’s Office Union (UISAL),[2] at least 50 % of the criminal cases on the island are processed by this Non-Governmental Organization. This implies that half of the population in Puerto Rico’s carceral system are indigents and consequently, cannot afford a lawyer in the post-conviction process.

In this context, the strengthening of programs like the DNA Postconviction Project of the University of Puerto Rico, are vital to facilitate real access to justice for falsely convicted human beings in Puerto Rico. Taking into consideration, the developing of the Project during the past two years, it is prudent to say that in the next two years, at least, 60 cases can be investigated.

 

[1]  https://www.census.gov/acs/www/data/data-tables-and-tools/narrative-pro…

[2]  [email protected]

Date Created: September 6, 2022