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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, $734,930)

The Michigan Attorney General’s office has placed itself on the cutting edge of criminal justice reform by establishing one of the first statewide conviction integrity units (MIAG CIU) in the nation. Advances in forensic science are happening daily, providing prosecutors and defense attorneys with powerful information that can be used both to exonerate and to convict. The MIAG CIU was created to address the issue of wrongful convictions. This grant project, a partnership with the Thomas M. Cooley Innocence Project (Cooley IP), will promote that goal on two fronts. First, the grant project will seek to investigate and rectify cases of wrongful conviction throughout the state. Second, the grant project will develop procedures, training, and best practices to help prevent future wrongful incarceration. An important goal of this project is to develop a cooperative screening protocol that will serve as a model for statewide CIU’s across the country. The Cooley IP has an existing partnership with the Wayne County CIU. The Cooley IP’s years of experience in DNA case screening provides this grant partnership with a unique opportunity to improve access to post-conviction DNA testing and to inform criminal justice reform throughout the state of Michigan and beyond. The MIAG CIU was announced on April 10, 2019. The unit has already begun receiving requests for investigation. The Cooley IP currently has approximately 162 cases under review which would fall under the purview of the MIAG CIU. The goal of this project is to review and work to conclusion 300 of these cases that involve claims of innocence in violent felony cases. This strategic partnership will bring together people with decades of experience to jointly screen cases to determine whether testing might be beneficial to the determination of guilt or innocence, without litigation. The MIAG CIU’s ability to locate evidence and agree to testing will speed up the process. While the Michigan State Police will be able to conduct most of the testing, the grant funding will allow the parties to agree to test at accredited private laboratories when needed. This project will serve as a model for other states’ collaborative efforts between statewide CIUs and innocence organizations, and allow for justice to be delivered more efficiently where forensic science can provide conclusive answers. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 16, 2019