Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $620,269)
Evidence to Exonerate the innocent program will be used to defray the review, location of physical evidence, and DNA testing in these cases of violent offenses in New Mexico. The New Mexico Department of Public Safety (DPS), with the Innocence and Justice Project as a sub-grantee of DPS, was awarded a 2009 Postconviction DNA Testing Assistance grant. Through that grant, IJP investigated and conducted searches for physical evidence in 73 cases. Unfortunately, actually finding existing physical and biological evidence was an issue for IJP and testing was conducted in only one case. The testing in that case has, to date, excluded IJP's client as the source of the male DNA and IJP is actively engaged in seeking relief for the individual. IJP anticipates that it will find biological evidence in some of the applications presently on file that could have exonerative value when tested.
Even though the previous grant led to testing in only one case, IJP's investigative work identified systemic issues in the criminal justice system in New Mexico, primarily the lack of uniform preservation of physical evidence, even though New Mexico has a DNA preservation and testing statute, as certified by the Attorney General. IJP is working with the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee of the New Mexico Supreme Court, New Mexico state legislators and others in the criminal justice system to educate the system about the importance of DNA and the adequate preservation of physical and biological evidence. Funding under this grant will allow the NM Department of Public Safety and the Innocence and Justice Project to continue their efforts working together, to assist the factually innocent incarcerated in New Mexico Postconviction Testing of DNA.