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California Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence Program

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $1,187,026)

As DNA technology has evolved, there remain significant gaps in its application and availability to innocent California prisoners. Resources are inadequate to assist the nearly 130,000 inmates housed in California 33 adult prisons.

Advances in DNA testing have broadened the group of DNA cases. Methods such as touch-DNA testing, which allows for DNA analysis of skin cells of an object, and probabilistic genotyping (PG) analysis, which enables analysts to obtain results from complex DNA mixtures, have been developed but not routinely applied.

The California Innocence Project and the Northern California Innocence Project help wrongfully convicted inmates advance innocence claims. The Projects (CA-IPs) receive 3,000 requests for assistance annually and have directly freed 51 people. If funded, the CA-IPs will form the California DNA Assistance Program (CADNAP), with the California Office of Emergency Services having oversight.

The project has four goals: (1) to identify postconviction cases of violent felony offenses; (2) to review identified cases to determine whether DNA testing can prove actual innocence; (3) to locate evidence associated with such cases; and (4) to perform DNA analysis of evidence.

CADNAP seeks to identify cases involving microscopic hair comparison analysis and cases amenable to advanced testing techniques. Case identification will occur through appellate record searches, screening of the CA-IP's case databases, new inmate requests, and referrals from law enforcement agencies. CADNAP will also conduct presentations in prisons to help identify inmates whose cases may implicate DNA testing.

Cases fitting program criteria will be investigated: evidence gathered, transcripts acquired, witnesses interviewed, and communication established with prior attorneys and prosecutors. If evidence is in testable condition, CADNAP will seek negotiated testing agreements. When unable to obtain agreements, CADNAP will file motions for court-ordered testing. If results are exculpatory, CADNAP will seek cooperation from prosecuting agencies to obtain relief. When cooperation is not attained, cases will be referred to the CA-IPs for habeas litigation.

CADNAP will produce a final report with findings and recommendations that will provide policymakers data for reform aimed at increasing the accuracy of the justice system. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 21, 2018