DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AWARDS $2.1 MILLION
RICHMOND, VA - Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, Deborah J. Daniels announced today that the Justice Department has awarded $1.9 million in DNA grants throughout Virginia to solve crime and exonerate the innocent as part of the President'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 $168,778 is being awarded in Virginia to improve criminal justice forensic services.
"DNA is a remarkable crime-fighting tool that will provide much needed relief to the survivors and families of victims," said Assistant Attorney General Daniels. "Virginia's offender database is already one of the best in the nation. The Justice Department is committed to assisting Virginia to clear its backlogs of unanalyzed DNA samples and enhance its forensic programs."
In Virginia, crimes are being solved and the innocent exonerated with DNA technology. In 1999, the Virginia DNA database matched the DNA profile of a convicted offender serving time in prison on an unrelated charge to DNA found at the crime scene of a 1987 slaying of a woman. Because of his prior criminal conviction, his profile was contained in Virginia's offender database. He had been imprisoned for over 13 years on the previous charge and would have been released in 2004 if not for the evidence that connected him to the 1987 murder. He was executed for the murder in 2002. More information about DNA technology is available at www.dna.gov.
The Assistant Attorney General announced the following grants for Virginia:
Total FY 2004 DNA Initiative Funding Awarded: $1,967,554
Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services: $431,770 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement) $796,725 (DNA forensic casework backlog reduction)
University of Virginia: $339,059 (DNA research and development grant)
American Prosecutors Research Institute $400,000 (DNA training development)
Other FY 2004 Forensics Grants Awarded: $168,778
Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services $168,778 (Coverdell discretionary grant)
Total FY 2004 DNA and Forensics Grants: $2,136,332
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.
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 over $2.3 million for general forensics research and development. In addition, NIJ has made available over $14 million for convicted offender testing, $9.5 million for Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants, and $42 million for crime lab improvement. 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 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.