The New York City Police Department, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Innocence Project have been awarded a National Institute of Justice grant totaling $1.25 million to catalogue crime scene evidence so that those seeking to prove their innocence through DNA testing can more readily get access to evidence in their case. According to a study of cases closed by the Innocence Project from 1996 to 2006, 50% of New York City cases were closed due to lost or destroyed evidence. Nationally, the figure from the same study was 22% of cases closed.
The funds are awarded through the National Institute of Justice’s Kirk Bloodsworth’s Postconviction DNA Testing Assistance Program, which was established in 2004 by the Justice for All Act and will be distributed over two years beginning on October 1, 2012. Bloodsworth was the first American who received the death penalty to be freed by DNA evidence.
The inability to locate evidence has hampered the Innocence Project’s efforts to clear people convicted in New York City for years, reported
The New York Times
Peter Neufeld, a co-founder of the Innocence Project, said that his organization had sought evidence — typically semen samples or blood stains — from the Police Department “in a couple of dozen” old cases only to learn that the police “simply couldn’t find” the evidence in its warehouses.
, who was exonerated after serving 21 years for a rape and robbery he didn’t commit, had to wait 12 years before the evidence was finally found in his case.
, who also served 21 years for a rape DNA proved he didn’t commit, had to endure two additional years in prison while law enforcement conducted an unsuccessful search for the evidence in his case. The evidence that cleared him was ultimately located in a private lab.
The funds received by the Innocence Project will pay for a new staff member to expedite review of approximately 800 cases of people convicted in New York City who are seeking to prove their innocence though DNA testing. The Office of Chief Medical Examiner will receive funds to cover some of the costs of the DNA testing.
full press release
New York City cases that were closed when evidence could not be located at NYPD’s evidence warehouse