OJP Press Release letterhead

September 20, 2004
Contact: Office of Justice Programs


     CHARLOTTE, NC - Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Christopher A. Wray announced today that the Justice Department has awarded $1.8 million in DNA grants throughout North Carolina 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 $986,906 is being awarded in North Carolina to improve criminal justice forensic services.

     "DNA promises to be the most remarkable crime-fighting tool of the 21st century," said Assistant Attorney General Wray. "This is an incredible opportunity for the state of North Carolina to prevent future rapes and murders. The Justice Department is committed to helping North Carolina clear its backlog of unanalyzed DNA samples and enhance its forensic programs."

     In North Carolina, crimes are being solved and the innocent exonerated with DNA technology. While serving time in prison for a 2002 attempted rape, a North Carolina man was connected, through DNA evidence, to a rape committed four years earlier. Although the 2002 victim was able to escape before being raped, the two cases were similar in that both women were out walking when they were dragged into the woods and assaulted. These similarities led the police to obtain a DNA sample from the incarcerated offender to check it with the evidence from the 1998 rape. The analysis provided a positive match and he was sentenced to 64 years in prison. More information about DNA technology is available at www.dna.gov.

     The Assistant Attorney General announced the following grants for North Carolina:

Total FY 2004 DNA Initiative Funding Awarded: $1,776,284

North Carolina Department of
Crime Control and Public Safety:       $736,823 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)
                                                      $981,685 (DNA forensic casework backlog reduction)

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department       $57,776 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)

Other FY 2004 Forensics Grants Awarded: $986,906

North Carolina Department of
Crime Control and Public Safety:       $192,106 (Coverdell formula grant)

Total FY2004 DNA and Forensics Grants: $2,763,190

     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 today, 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.