OJP Press Release letterhead

September 23, 2004
Contact: Office of Justice Programs


     BATON ROUGE, LA - Deputy Associate Attorney General Tracy A. Henke announced today that the Justice Department has awarded $1.8 million in DNA grants throughout Louisiana to solve crime and exonerate the innocent as part of President Bush's DNA initiative, Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology. These are the first grants to be awarded under the President's initiative, a five-year, more than $1 billion effort to eliminate casework and the convicted offender backlog; improve crime lab capacity; provide DNA training; provide for post-conviction DNA testing; and conduct testing to identify missing persons. An additional $478,108 is being awarded in Louisiana to improve criminal justice forensic services.

     "DNA promises to be the most remarkable crime-fighting tool of the 21st century," said Deputy Associate Attorney General Henke. "Already, DNA evidence has identified hundreds of murderers and rapists nationwide. The Justice Department is committed to helping Louisiana enhance its forensic programs to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent."

     In 2001, a Slidell, Louisiana man kidnapped and raped a woman in a Metairie parking garage. He forced his victim into her car at gunpoint, then handcuffed, blindfolded, and raped her before dropping her off in Mississippi. DNA evidence helped link the man to the crime. He had previously been arrested for aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery and two counts of aggravated rape. He was sentenced in July 2002 to three life sentences and an additional 99 years in prison for armed robbery. More information about DNA technology is available at www.dna.gov.

     Today, the Deputy Associate Attorney General announced the following grants for Louisiana:

Total FY 2004 DNA Initiative Funds Awarded: $1,362,249

Louisiana State Police:       $603,089 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)
                                       $759,160 (DNA forensic casework backlog reduction)

Other FY 2004 Forensics Grants Awarded: $478,108

Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement:       $182,974 (Coverdell formula grant)
                                                             $240,625 (Coverdell discretionary grant)
                                                             $54,509 (Coverdell formula grant)

Total FY 2004 DNA and Forensics Grants: $1,840,357

     Throughout the country there is a large backlog of unanalyzed DNA samples, which can significantly delay criminal investigations. According to a study funded by the Justice Department, there are 542,700 DNA records waiting to be tested

     Earlier this week, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the total funding for the President's DNA initiative is nearly $95 million. The initiative aims to reduce the DNA analysis backlog and allow law enforcement agencies to use DNA evidence promptly as a routine law enforcement tool. The Justice Department has awarded the grants directly to the local jurisdictions, which usually have the greatest DNA backlog. The grants will be administered by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development and evaluation component of the Justice Department.

     Nationwide, NIJ awarded $38 million for DNA casework; $28 million for DNA capacity building for crime lab improvement; $4.7 million for DNA training; $7.9 million for DNA research and development; $1.9 million for DNA testing for missing persons; and $14 million for convicted offender testing. In addition, NIJ will spend $9.5 million for Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants, over $2.3 million for general forensics research and development; and provide $42 million in additional crime lab improvement funds. This funding represents the largest amount of money provided by DOJ to support state and local forensic efforts.

     DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid, the material of chromosomes, which identifies a person's unique genetic makeup. Databases of convicted offenders' DNA help provide law enforcement with leads in unsolved cases in which a suspect's blood, semen, saliva, or hair was left behind.

     Newer DNA analysis techniques can yield results from biological evidence invisible to the naked eye, even when the evidence is contaminated. Police departments throughout the country are reexamining unsolved rape and homicide cases using advanced methods of detecting identifiable DNA. Newly processed DNA profiles are uploaded into the FBI database, CODIS, so the data can be compared with evidence in the national system. Matches are reported to law enforcement and then verified by obtaining and analyzing a second sample from the suspect.