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Innocence Projects at Santa Clara University and California Western School of Law Share $2 Million Grant for Ongoing Post--Conviction DNA Testing

Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Dec. 6, 2011 -- The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) at Santa Clara University School of Law and the California Innocence Project (CIP) at California Western School of Law in San Diego have been awarded a second grant of  $2.2 million to continue a wide-reaching DNA testing program.

The California Post-Conviction DNA Testing Assistance Program (CADNAP) helps eligible California inmates pursue post-conviction DNA testing to support their claims of innocence. 

The grant comes eleven years after California inmates were granted the legal right to seek post-conviction DNA testing of evidence. But many inmates have not been able to exercise that right because of the urgency of the state's fiscal crisis, a strained judicial system and the large number of incarcerated claiming innocence.

The second grant, like the first, will pay for reviews of eligible post-conviction cases of violent felonies, especially forcible rape and homicide; for locating and analyzing biological evidence samples associated with these cases, and for litigating petitions requesting DNA testing. 

In 2009, the program initially was funded with a $2.4 million grant. Since then, seven lawyers and six paralegals and investigators have worked to identify inmates from among the 33 adult prisons statewide who appear most likely to be exonerated by DNA testing. This second grant will enable the lawyers to continue that highly labor-intensive work for another 18 months. 

CADNAP’s program is by far the most concerted effort undertaken in California to identify and review potential cases for post-conviction DNA testing. Through this work, NCIP, CIP, and CADNAP have developed crucial expertise in post-conviction DNA cases. A significant number of cases remain to be reviewed, and the additional funding will enable CADNAP to proactively identify, locate and assist innocent individuals among California’s 162,000 inmates.

Since CADNAP’s inception 18 months ago, 17,670 informational packets have been distributed to prison inmates convicted of qualifying offenses. More than 3,300 cases were screened and reviewed and 196 cases were opened for investigation. DNA testing is proceeding in eight cases.

If DNA results indicate the inmate could not have committed the crime, the innocence projects will pursue fair resolution of the case with the court system and local district attorney's offices.

The funding for this program comes from the National Institute of Justice, a part of the Kirk Bloodsworth Postconviction DNA Testing grant program, included in the 2004 Justice for All Act sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The Bloodsworth grant was intended to allow states to conduct DNA tests in cases in which someone has already been convicted, but key DNA evidence was not tested.  The grant funds were awarded competitively to the California Emergency Management Agency, which oversees CADNAP’s programs and funds distribution.

“We are grateful for this second grant as we are seeking testing in over two dozen cases around the state,” said Cathy Dreyfuss, CADNAP directing attorney at NCIP. “Any of these cases may result in the exoneration of a wrongfully convicted inmate.”

CADNAP is determined to change the way that California addresses the needs of the wrongfully convicted, Dreyfuss added. “Preservation of biological evidence and legal documents is the backbone of post-conviction DNA testing litigation,” she said. “By exposing inherent problems in how such material is retained, we uncover avenues for legislative reform.”

"The continuation of this program is very significant for California prisoners," said Kathleen "Cookie" Ridolfi, executive director of NCIP. "This is the broadest and largest undertaking in any state in the nation. It has the potential not just to exonerate the wrongfully convicted but also, with DNA analysis, identify the actual perpetrators."

About the Northern California Innocence Project
The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) is a pro bono legal clinic at Santa Clara University School of Law. At the Project, law students work with supervising and pro bono attorneys to exonerate innocent prisoners and pursue legal reforms that address the causes and consequences of wrongful convictions. Since its inception in 2001, the
Northern California Innocence Project has proved the innocence of 13 wrongly convicted people. For more information, see www.ncip.scu.edu.

About the California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law is home to the California and Hawaii Innocence Projects. Students at California Western work to free wrongfully convicted inmates by reviewing more than 2,000 claims of innocence each year, and focusing on cases where there is evidence of actual innocence. Innocence Project attorneys and students then investigate cases by tracking down and re-interviewing witnesses, examining new evidence, filling motions, securing expert witnesses, and advocating for their clients during evidentiary hearings and trials. Ten California Innocence Project clients have been released since the project's inception in 2000. For more information, visit www.californiainnocenceproject.org.

Media Contact
Deborah Lohse, SCU Media Relations | 408-554-5121 | dlohse@scu.edu


      
 

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