ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT ANNOUNCES NEARLY $150 MILLION IN AWARDS FOR
PITTSBURGH, PA - Attorney General John Ashcroft announced today that the Justice Department has awarded nearly $95 million in DNA grants nationwide as part of President Bush’s DNA initiative, Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology. The awards represent the greatest investment in DNA technology to date-more than twice the amount of any previous year’s funding-and the first grants to be awarded under the President’s initiative. The initiative is a five-year, more than $1 billion effort to eliminate casework and convicted offender backlogs; to improve crime lab capacity; to provide training for all stakeholders in the criminal justice system; and to conduct testing to identify the missing. In addition, more than $50 million was awarded to improve criminal justice forensic services.
Attorney General Ashcroft, at an event held today in Pittsburgh at the federal courthouse, highlighted Pennsylvania DNA grants totaling $2.5 million for the President’s DNA initiative, as well as an additional $679,000 in forensic grants to improve Pennsylvania criminal justice forensic services.
“Through President Bush’s DNA initiative, victims and their families will have the chance to see justice done,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft. “Our investment in the tools DNA technology provides will help law enforcement to solve crimes that might have been impossible to solve in the past. The Justice Department is committed to making DNA technology a routine part of investigations, and to keeping the public safe by allowing criminal justice resources to pursue the guilty and exonerate the innocent.”
Across the country, crimes are being solved and the innocent exonerated with DNA technology. In 2003, information from the Pennsylvania DNA database helped convict a man of the 1998 murder of a woman who had been found dead of multiple stab wounds in her apartment. In 1999, this man was convicted of robbing and assaulting another woman. When his DNA profile was run through the Pennsylvania DNA database, DNA found at the murder scene matched the man’s profile. He was later sentenced to life in prison.
In another case, a Maryland man spent 20 years in prison for a 1982 rape in which the victim was attacked and raped at gunpoint. He consistently denied the crime and was released in 2002 when DNA evidence revealed that he could not have been the man who committed the rape.
Many public crime laboratories are not fully equipped to handle the increased demand for DNA testing. Throughout the country, there are large backlogs of unanalyzed DNA samples from convicted offenders and crime scenes. These backlogs can significantly delay criminal investigations and the administration of justice. According to a study funded by Justice Department, researchers estimate that biological evidence either still in the possession of local law enforcement or backlogged at forensic crime laboratories is estimated to be 542,700. With these grants, the Justice Department has made sure that local jurisdictions, which often have the greatest DNA backlogs, are directly awarded DNA money.
Total FY 2004 DNA Initiative Funds Awarded: $2,565,103:
Allegheny County:$84,594 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)
City of Philadelphia:$329,313 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)
Pennsylvania State Police:$593,165 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)
Other FY 2004 Forensics Grants Awarded: $679,950:
Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency: $282,551 (Coverdell formula grant)
East Stroudsburg University: $397,400 (grant to improve criminal justice forensic services)
Total FY2004 DNA and Forensics Grants: $3,245,053
A package of DNA crime bills, which supports many of the goals of President Bush’s DNA initiative, is currently pending in the Pennsylvania state Senate.
Attorney General Ashcroft also noted that the Justice Department has created a new website, www.dna.gov <http://www.dna.gov>, a comprehensive one-stop information source for funding information, training, publications, and other resources. A copy of the President’s DNA initiative, as well as information and resources on how DNA has been used to solve crime and exonerate the innocent can be found on the site.
The grants will be administered by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development and evaluation arm 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 the Justice Department to support state and local forensic efforts.
DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid, the material of chromosomes, which identify a person's unique genetic makeup. Databases of DNA profiles of offenders 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 in cases where the evidence is contaminated. Today, 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 DNA profiles and evidence already in the national system. Matches are reported to law enforcement and then verified by obtaining and analyzing a second sample from the suspect