Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $830,884)
Only 23 DNA-related exonerations took place in California - a state that incarcerates more inmates than any state other than Texas. Of the 23 cases, only six were in Los Angeles County - a county that produces nearly half of all serious felony convictions in the state. Additional DNA testing is required in serious felony cases within Los Angeles County for individuals who claim their innocence and DNA testing may establish they were wrongfully convicted and also indicate the actual perpetrator of the felony offense.
The Criminalistics Program within the School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics at California State University, Los Angeles is committed to the advancement of the forensic sciences through a multidisciplinary approach that focuses on research development, professional training, student support, and community engagement. The school is dedicated to upholding the highest professional, scientific, and academic standards in our service to the University, forensic science profession, and justice community. The Criminalistics Program proposes a collaboration with Loyola Law School's Project for the Innocent (LPI), the only non-profit legal clinic in Los Angeles County dedicated to uncovering and remedying wrongful convictions in murder and serious felony cases within the county. Forensic Science faculty and graduate students associated with the Criminalistics Program will liaise with LPI by identifying and reviewing cases and locating biological evidence associated with 20-30 cases in which LPI has received direct requests for assistance from individuals explicitly stating that their innocence could be proven through DNA testing.
The Criminalistics Program will have primary responsibility for implementing and managing the award. LPI, as a grant sub-recipient, will take the lead in identifying potential DNA testing cases that are good candidates for careful review from the requests for DNA testing that LPI has received. LPI will hire two full-time attorney's dedicated to DNA case identification and review. The Criminalistics Program will collaborate with LPI in (1) targeting 20-30 cases in which DNA testing could prove the actual innocence of a person convicted of a violent felony offense and (2) locating biological evidence associated with those cases. The Criminalistics Program will consult with a DNA expert as needed and will contract with an accredited laboratory to conduct DNA analysis of appropriate biological evidence. We envision the project outcomes will benefit society by providing the justice system with more definitive answers to legal questions.