Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,500,000)
In accordance with recommendations established in Illinois House Joint Resolution HJ0055 & Senate Joint Resolution SJ0036, the Office of the Illinois Attorney General seeks to establish a Conviction Integrity Unit (hereinafter the “OAG-CIU”) to investigate wrongful convictions and claims of actual innocence. The OAG-CIU will review and investigate violent felony cases where new, credible evidence of innocence has been discovered or where new technologies allow for the testing of remaining evidence. The proper collection and analysis of DNA evidence will be crucial to validating claims of actual innocence. The OAG-CIU budget must include sufficient funds for the testing of DNA evidence, which, according to prevailing literature and research, will constitute the bulk of its DNA analysis budget, and enough funding to employ assistant attorneys general (AAGs), investigators, DNA forensic experts, and support staff to assist in the post-conviction case identification, case review and investigation of DNA evidence. The AAGs will be dedicated full-time to screening, reviewing and working on DNA-related post-conviction cases. Investigators and DNA experts will assist full-time in providing technical and non-technical DNA support pertaining to testing and analysis.
Of Illinois’ 102 counties, currently, only four (4) state’s attorney’s offices operate independent conviction integrity units (CIUs). Most of the remaining 98 counties are small and unable to bear the financial burden of post-conviction case reviews for potential wrongful convictions, let alone operate independent CIUs. For the aforementioned reasons, the OAG-CIU’s resources and expertise in DNA collection, processing and analysis are desperately needed to provide conclusive evidence of innocence, thereby reducing the number of wrongful convictions in Illinois. With sufficient funding, the OAG-CIU can ensure that the state’s post-conviction DNA testing demands.