Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $400,701)
As submitted by the proposer:
In 1997, Illinois became one of the first states to adopt legislation that provides for postconviction DNA testing to prove actual innocence (725 ILCS 5/116-3). Illinois also enacted an evidence preservation law recognizing the potential for solving old cases and exonerating the wrongfully convicted using DNA evidence. More recently, in 2007 the Illinois General Assembly amended the postconviction DNA testing statute to accommodate rapid improvements that have been made in DNA testing and sample recovery methods [725 ILCS 5/116-3 (a)(2)]. Through this solicitation, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office seeks grant funding to employ one part-time Postconviction DNA Specialist (PDS) and one full-time Postconviction DNA Assistant State's Attorney (PDA) to be dedicated to work on DNA-related postconviction cases. The PDA will review and investigate all DNA-related postconviction cases. The PDS will provide onsite information regarding technical and non-technical DNA issues on a full-time basis in regards to post-conviction cases. The PDS will act as a liaison with the crime lab and the PDA when necessary. The PDS will advise the PDA on specific issues such as the explanation of report findings, statistics and conclusions, and can assist with reexamining the previous DNA reports, if any. The goals for this program are to: 1) review appropriate postconviction cases to identify those in which DNA testing could prove the actual innocence of a person convicted of a violent felony offense(s) as defined by State law; 2) locate biological evidence associated with such postconviction cases, and 3) perform and evaluate DNA analysis of appropriate biological evidence. To achieve these goals we will: 1) review all aspects of at least 80 DNA-related postconviction cases with claims of actual innocence; 2) review at least 80 cases in order to determine if there is biological evidence that needs to be located, and 3) evaluate the located evidence to determine if additional DNA testing needs to be completed and work with the forensic lab to have the tests completed. The grant-funded staff will evaluate the evidence by reviewing crime scene photos, police reports, lab reports, notes and evidence receipts, statements of witnesses and medical examiner reports. They will then assist in locating the physical evidence, and work with the Illinois State Police laboratory (or alternate lab if necessary) that will provide guidance and input testing. After the initial review and reinvestigation of the case, it will be determined the follow-up steps that need to be taken.