OJP Press Release letterhead

September 21, 2004
Contact: Office of Justice Programs


     DENVER, CO - Sarah V. Hart, the Director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development and evaluation arm of the Justice Department, announced today that the Justice Department has awarded over $ 1.1 million in DNA grants throughout Colorado as part of the President's DNA Initiative, Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology, to solve crime and exonerate the innocent. 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 $1.6 million is being awarded in Colorado to improve criminal justice forensic services.

     "DNA is a remarkable crime-fighting tool that is able to solve crimes that never would have been solved before. It allows law enforcement resources to be focused on the guilty and can quickly exonerate the innocent before they are ever charged or convicted of a crime," said NIJ Director Hart. "This technology will prevent many future crimes and ensure that crime survivors see justice done. The Justice Department is committed to helping Colorado maximize this technology to solve crime and protect its citizens."

     Director Hart also noted that DNA has solved some of Colorado's most serious crimes. The FBI's DNA database linked a series of rapes in Fort Collins, Colorado to a murder and series of rapes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This link allowed police to focus on a suspect who had been in each location during the rapes and DNA evidence confirmed his identity. He later pleaded guilty to the murder and all of the rapes.

     DNA also provided the critical evidence in a Colorado Springs rape and murder. In 2000, a jury convicted a man of the stabbing and strangulation of a young mother in her apartment. DNA tests connected crime scene evidence to the murder. After the conviction, the prosecutor confirmed that police would not have solved the crime without DNA evidence. More information about DNA technology is available at www.dna.gov.

     The NIJ Director announced the following grants for Colorado:

Total FY 2004 DNA Initiative Funding Awarded: $1,125,773

Other FY 2004 Forensics Grants Awarded: $1,609,421

Colorado State University -Pueblo:       $989,477 (grants to improve criminal justice forensic services)

City of Colorado Springs:       $496,750 (grants to improve criminal justice forensic services)

County of Arapahoe:       $19,211 (Coverdell discretionary grant)

Colorado Division of Criminal Justice:       $103,983 (Coverdell formula grant)

Total FY 2004 DNA and Forensics Grants: $2,735,194

     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.