DOJ Press Release letterhead

  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
  • Tuesday, October 20, 2009
  • WWW.OJP.GOV
  • Office of Justice Programs
  • Contact: Sheila Jerusalem
  • (202) 307-0703

Minnesota Receives Funds for Testing in Postconviction Cases

State Receives $859 Thousand to Investigate Innocence Claims

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced over $859 Thousand was awarded to the state of Minnesota to help defray costs associated with reviewing of cases where DNA testing and evidence may prove actual innocence. The Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP), National Institute of Justice (NIJ) will administer the grants through the Postconviction Testing Program.

“Earlier this year, our nationwide symposium on post conviction DNA issues received overwhelming response from prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, crime laboratory personnel, advocates, victims and law enforcement personnel from nearly all the 50 states,” said OJP Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary.“ We look forward to continue working with Minnesota to use DNA technology to protect the innocent and bring the guilty to justice.”

The grant funds will be utilized through an interagency collaboration between the Minnesota Board of Public Defense, the Office of Hennepin County Attorney, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Innocence Project of Minnesota. The goal of the project is to increase the number of postconviction cases subjected to DNA testing by identifying cases where advanced DNA testing was not available and where such testing could lead to new evidence of innocence. The project will provide experts who will systematically review forcible rape, murder, and non-negligent manslaughter convictions in Minnesota to determine how many innocent people remain in prison or continue to suffer from collateral consequences of their conviction.

The DNA Initiative, Advancing Justice through DNA Technology, provides funding, training, and assistance to ensure that forensic DNA reaches its full potential to solve crimes, protect the innocent, and identify missing persons. DNA testing makes it possible to obtain conclusive results in cases in which previous testing had been inconclusive or non-existent.

In January, NIJ held a national symposium to allow states to share information and ideas that could improve processes related to post-conviction DNA cases. The symposium also provided an opportunity for networking among key people from around the country. Approximately 300 attendees - prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement agencies and crime laboratories representing 46 states and one territory - were able to attend the symposium. Also in attendance were representatives from the five states - Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia and Washington - to which NIJ awarded nearly $8 million in postconviction funding in 2008.

More information on the NIJ - sponsored National Postconviction Symposium held in Tampa, Florida, January, 22 - 23 2009 is available at: http://www.nij.gov/events/postconviction-symposium.htm.

Additional awards were provided to California ($2.5 M), Colorado ($1.1 M), Connecticut ($1.4 M), Louisiana ($1.3 M), Maryland ($307 K), New Mexico ($924 K), North Carolina ($566 K), and Wisconsin ($647 K) totaling $9.8 million.

More information on the DNA Initiative is available at http://www.dna.gov.

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The Office of Justice Programs, headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has five component bureaus: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime. Additionally, OJP has two program offices: the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART). More information can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.

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