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Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence

Award Information

Award #
2019-DY-BX-0012
Location
Awardee County
Wayne
Congressional District
Status
Open
Funding First Awarded
2019
Total funding (to date)
$165,810

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $165,810)

Michigan’s State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) will continue for two years the review of felony cases in which postconviction testing of DNA evidence may demonstrate actual innocence, reaching a significant number of newly; discovered cases.

As of May 2019, SADO’s DNA Project has reviewed to completion 725 cases and is currently investigating 83 of the Wayne County cases in which a defendant was convicted, and an untested DPD sexual assault kit was subsequently found. Michigan’s State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) will continue for two years the review of felony cases in which postconviction testing of DNA evidence may demonstrate actual innocence, reaching a significant number of newly discovered cases. As of May 2019, SADO’s DNA Project has reviewed to completion 725 cases and is currently investigating 83 of the Wayne County cases in which a defendant was convicted, and an untested DPD sexual assault kit was subsequently found. Working with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office (WCPO), the Project Attorney and Paralegal have retrieved files, consulted with defendants, analyzed cases, and determined whether new DNA testing undermines the original verdict.

This project will address: (1) approximately 329 remaining DPD cases, and (2) an estimated 3600 untested kits discovered in additional Michigan counties. The first group consists of postconviction cases referred by the WCPO. The second group involves pre and postconviction cases, in which audits are still underway to assign each to the proper category. Applying the previously used one-to-ten ratio, at least 360 additional postconviction cases will be discovered amongst the non-Detroit untested kits. The conservative total of postconviction cases remaining is estimated to be 689, all of which will require extensive evaluation.
Over the next two years SADO will focus on implementing the process used with Wayne County and DPD kits by working with individual prosecutors and conviction integrity units statewide to review the 360 nonDetroit cases, in addition to the remaining 329 DPD, postconviction felony cases. The work will involve identifying and gathering untested sexual assault evidence, obtaining reliable testing, analyzing results, and advocating for potentially innocent individuals. The role of an experienced defense agency in the process is to ensure robust review and confidence in the justice system. The reliable closing of these cases, whether or not innocence is demonstrated, depends on this statewide defense involvement.

CA/NCF

Date Created: September 16, 2019