OJP Press Release letterhead

September 24, 2004
Contact: Office of Justice Programs


     MIAMI, FL - Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Cheri Nolan announced today that the Justice Department has awarded $8.7 million in DNA grants throughout Florida 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 $9.2 million is being awarded in Florida to improve criminal justice forensic services. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nolan made this announcement at the Miami-Dade crime lab where she was joined by Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights R. Alexander Acosta and U.S Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Marcos Daniel Jimenez.

     "DNA promises to be the most remarkable crime-fighting tool of the 21st century," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nolan. "Florida's investment in forensic evidence collection, crime lab testing, and building the DNA database has led to remarkable success with all types of crime. The Justice Department is committed to helping Florida enhance its forensic programs to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. This DNA effort also helps to identify missing persons and provide answers for grieving families."

     "DNA helps ensure that justice is impartial and accurate," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights R. Alexander Acosta. "The Department of Justice is dedicated to supporting the efforts of Florida law enforcement and forensic researchers to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent with speed and certainty."

     "All of the Florida funding recipients of the President's DNA initiative, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Miami-Dade Police Department, and the Broward County and Palm Beach County crime labs, are worthy funding recipients. The forensic work of these crime labs is an integral part of the DNA initiative's efforts to assist law enforcement in solving crimes, protecting the innocent, and locating missing persons. These crime labs should be commended for their important efforts in this district," said Marcos Daniel Jimenez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

     Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nolan also cited the efforts of Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade County to use DNA analysis to solve many types of crime. These counties developed programs that identified cases of all types-from burglaries to car theft to robberies and other violent crimes-in which DNA evidence might be present but police had yet to identify a suspect. When the DNA profiles from these cases were loaded into state and national DNA databases, matches to known criminals were made in 40% to 50% of the cases.

     "These efforts demonstrate the effectiveness of using DNA analysis to solve serious crimes-such as murder and sexual assaults-as well as more routine crimes often committed in large numbers by career criminals," Nolan said.

     Across the country, crimes are being solved and the innocent exonerated with DNA technology. In 2003, DNA evidence helped convict a Florida man of raping two University of Miami students. He was also sentenced to 30 years for kidnapping and 15 years for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. In total, he received six life sentences for his felonies. More information about DNA technology is available at www.dna.gov.

     Today, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General announced the following grants for Florida:

Total DNA Initiative Funds FY 2004 Funding Awarded: $8,737,813

National Center for Forensic Science:       $186,892 (DNA missing persons program)
                                                             $519,964 (DNA research and development grant)

National Forensic Science Technology Center:       $2,000,000 (DNA training development)

Broward County Sheriff's Office:       $199,539 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)
                                                             $195,023 (DNA forensic casework backlog reduction)

Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement:       $1,697,495 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)
                                                             $1,944,178 (DNA forensic casework backlog reduction)

Miami Dade County:       $535,895 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)
                                                             $410,841 (DNA forensic casework backlog reduction)

Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office:      $181,765 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)
                                                             $191,807 (DNA forensic casework backlog reduction)                                     $674,414 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)

Other FY 2004 Forensics Grants Awarded: $9,202,715

University of Central Florida:       $210,728 (general forensics research and development)

Florida International University:       $499,865 (general forensics research and development)

Florida Gulf Coast University:       $1,241,875 (grant to improve criminal justice forensic services)

National Center for
Forensic Science:                     $743,381 (grants to improve criminal justice forensic services)

National Forensic Science
Technology Center:                     $2,978,955 (grants to improve criminal justice forensic services)

Stetson University College of Law       $2,968,432 (national clearinghouse for science and the law)

Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement:       $388,886 (Coverdell formula grant)

Hernando County:       $45,937 (Coverdell discretionary grant)

Hillsborough County:       $72,423 (Coverdell discretionary grant)

Pinellas County:       $52,233 (Coverdell discretionary grant)

Total FY 2004 DNA and Forensics Grants: $17,940,528

     Florida is also joining in the effort to increase the use of DNA to identify missing persons. The President's DNA initiative calls for $10 million in funding to help ensure that DNA forensic technology is used to its full potential to identify missing persons, providing an increased sense of closure for their families. The DNA initiative seeks to encourage greater use of the FBI's missing persons database. As part of this larger effort, the National Center for Forensic Science in Orlando received $186,892 to convene a panel of national forensic and criminal justice experts to identify new technologies and best practices for identifying human remains and develop informational and training materials for law enforcement personnel, crime labs and medical examiners.

     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.