Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $550,000)
This application for the Post Conviction Testing of DNA Evidence grant towards the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU)-focuses on intensifying our efforts to provide specialized, high-quality, and groundbreaking use of DNA technology. Established in 2007, the Conviction Integrity Unit reviews and re-investigates legitimate claims of innocence in accordance with the Texas law. In addition, the Conviction Integrity Unit reviews and prosecutes old cases (DNA and non-DNA related) where evidence identifies different or additional perpetrators. In numerous instances, cases subjected to DNA testing have provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Conversely, DNA testing has the capacity to identify the true offenders with outstanding accuracy. The project intends to continue strengthening the well-established standing of this Conviction Integrity Unit by testing previously untested evidence held in Dallas County’s local laboratory- Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences (SWIFS). SWIFS’s progressive reasoning that DNA testing would evolve over time has proven to be an invaluable prediction because the lab stored evidence in cases, despite legal disposition, allowing for post-conviction forensic analysis in many cases. Without the evidence to test, our Dallas County DNA exonerations would not have been possible. While many cases have since been subjected to DNA testing, SWIFS still maintains evidence to test in cases that have not been previously subjected to DNA testing. This Office seeks continuation of the BJA FY20 Post-conviction Testing of DNA Evidence Grant in order to advance our ongoing efforts to identify cases that would qualify for post-conviction DNA testing . This project will advance the processing and analysis of this evidence for identification purposes, decrease the backlog of this untested evidence, and close cases. Dallas County is seeking priority consideration under 1 (A) and 1 (B), as described on page 5 of the Program Narrative. Dallas County is requesting the funding of the following positions: CIU Felony Prosecutor, a CIU Investigator, and a CIU Legal Assistant-,testing resources, and travel/training expenses. Federal funding of this project will ensure evidence is forensically tested to completion and will provide the means to employ additional staff. Dallas County is requesting $500,00 in federals funds, and this project is expected to end September 2025.