OJP Press Release letterhead

September 23, 2004
Contact: Office of Justice Programs


     SEATTLE, WA - Sarah V. Hart, Director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development and evaluation agency of the Justice Department, announced today that the Justice Department has awarded $1.5 million in DNA grants throughout Washington 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 $213,737 is being awarded in Washington to improve criminal justice forensic services.

     "DNA promises to be the most remarkable crime-fighting tool of the 21st century," said Director Hart. "Many families of victims and courageous survivors will finally see justice done. The Justice Department is committed to supporting Washington in its effort to clear its DNA backlog and enhance its forensic programs."

     Director Hart commended Washington for its past crime solving efforts with DNA evidence. "Washington used DNA to identify the Green River Killer. DNA evidence is critical in identifying serial murderers and rapists and preventing them from continuing to prey upon our citizens," said Director Hart. "DNA can also solve old crimes committed before the scientific advances of DNA technology. By reviewing old cases and using the national DNA database, police can solve old murders like the Mia Zapata case that occurred in Seattle in 1993." More information about DNA technology is available at www.dna.gov.

     Today, the NIJ Director announced the following grants for Washington:

Total FY 2004 DNA Initiative Funding Awarded: $1,469,774

Washington State Patrol:       $425,839 (DNA laboratory capacity enhancement)

Washington State Patrol:       $1,043,935 (DNA forensic casework backlog reduction)

Other FY 2004 Forensics Grants Awarded: $213,737

Washington Department of Community Trade and Economic Development:       $140,104 (Coverdell formula grant)

Spokane County Board of Commissioners       $73,633 (Coverdell discretionary grant)

Total FY 2004 DNA and Forensics Grants: $1,683,511

     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.