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Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $304,626)

Since its founding in 2001, the Illinois Innocence Project (IIP) has received thousands of requests for assistance from incarcerated defendants convicted of violent felonies and claiming actual innocence. Very few of those requests make it through IIP’s intensive evaluation to be eligible for postconviction work; even fewer have the potential for DNA testing. Requests must meet basic criteria and then are carefully screened to be eligible for evaluation. As a result of the Project’s evaluation process, DNA testing conclusively proved actual innocence in 3 of IIP’s 9 exonerations achieved since DNA casework began in 2012. IIP has 22 active cases involving DNA testing, 9 of which have evidence in the lab. These cases are part of IIP’s total 216 open cases. Many cases cannot be taken by IIP due to limited resources and the cost of DNA testing. IIP has prescreened/identified 30 cases involving incentivized testimony, 23 of which have DNA evidence for which grant-funded testing may be a plausible means to determine innocence. IIP will also conduct full evaluations and investigations of 7 cases with incentivized testimony to determine likely innocence and potential for DNA testing. IIP also will continue to evaluate an additional 93 DNA cases with “undetermined” incentivized testimony. The goal will be to engage in DNA testing on as many worthy cases as possible by the end of the grant period. DNA work involving incentivized testimony continues to play a vital role in Illinois policy and practice. With leadership and encouragement from IIP, Illinois passed a statute mandating review by the trial judge of incentivized jail house informants. But that statute did not address the use of incentivized testimony by individuals who are not in custody but who receive rewards (or the expectation of a reward in the future) from law enforcement. Additional IIP DNA case successes and resulting data will inform reform efforts. The Illinois Innocence Project is located in the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield, which provides fiscal oversight and support for the Project’s work. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 16, 2019