Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $550,000)
The Delaware Criminal Justice Council (CJC), along with proposed Subrecipient Innocence Delaware, seeks funding to provide personnel and supporting resources to pursue postconviction DNA testing on behalf of those incarcerated in Delaware who claim that they are innocent as a precursor to seeking exoneration where appropriate. At present, Innocence Delaware (ID) is the only, non-prosecutorial organization to which an innocent inmate can turn for assistance in finding and securing evidence for DNA testing and for arranging for testing by a reliable laboratory. Since it began accepting cases in 2020, ID has been inundated with requests for assistance. The CJC will work with Innocence Delaware to continue to fulfill that need if it receives this funding opportunity.
As of 2022, Delaware ranks 18th in the country in imprisonment rates. In Delaware, 22.1% of the population is Black, according to the 2020 census. In local state prisons, that population jumps to 60%. Black people made up 65% of people serving life sentences and 63% of people detained in prison awaiting charges. Innocence Delaware is a newer project, and the only innocence project in the State. Since opening its doors to potential clients, ID has received requests for assistance at a staggering rate. ID seeks to expand its infrastructure and capacity to screen, investigate and secure testing for wrongful conviction cases in which DNA evidence will prove innocence or was improperly tested or presented in the original proceedings.
The Delaware CJC is seeking $465,826.70 to fund a portion of the salaries for three Innocence Delaware positions, the continued positions of Executive Director and Investigator and the new position of staff attorney with a focus on forensic science. The CJC has confidence that with adequate financial resources, Innocence Delaware will be well equipped to more effectively identify, investigate and pursue the use of DNA science to lay the groundwork for the exoneration of innocent prisoners in Delaware.