Eight hundred persons convicted in New York City are seeking to prove their innocence through DNA testing. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to locate evidence in the city’s massive evidence storage facility. Now those who are actually innocent in this group have new hope. The National Institute of Justice has granted $1.2 million to enable the New York Police Department to dedicate a new staff person to search for sexual assault and homicide cases so that the evidence can be reclassified and assigned a bar code—making the evidence more readily available. Some DNA testing will also be covered by the grant, which will begin on October 1, 2012.
As reported in The New York Times (here) the funds will be applied in a highly efficient manner “because they will be utilizing infrastructure and expertise already in place. The cataloguing system for the evidence will utilize the NYPD’s recently modernized evidence tracking system.” A “new Innocence Project staff person will expedite innocence claims”…and “the Chief Medical Examiner has agreed to donate all staff time for the DNA testing.”
In the Innocence Project’s press release (here), NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly commended “Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski for his expertise and tenacity in spearheading the winning grant application.”
The Innocence Project’s release illustrated the difficulty in locating evidence, which has thwarted efforts to prove innocence in New York for years. Alan Newton, for example, waited 12 years before evidence was located, leading to his exoneration after he had served 21 years for a rape and robbery he didn’t commit.
Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, affiliated with Cardozo School of Law, expressed gratitude “to the NYPD for their willingness to work together to develop a system for cataloguing decades of evidence so that the many people who have been trying to prove their innocence through DNA testing will finally have an opportunity to do so.”
“Through this grant, the NYPD is proud to join the Innocence Project in its noble work to restore actually innocent persons to society,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Earlier this week, we reported (here) on Commissioner Kelly’s proactive work to implement video recording of interrogations, another best practice that can reduce tragic miscarriages in which innocent people are convicted while the guilty escape justice.