The NYPD and the Innocence Project have been awarded a $1.25 million grant that will help better catalogue evidence for those seeking to prove their innocence through DNA testing.
The money, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, will be distributed over two years.
"Advances in the science of DNA help in the identification and prosecution of dangerous criminals, as well as to provide a way to assure that innocent individuals are eliminated as suspects or exonerated if wrongly convicted. Through this grant, the NYPD is proud to join the Innocence Project in its noble work to restore actually innocent persons to society," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, in a statement.
Most of the funds will go to the NYPD, which will search through its massive evidence storage collection facility for sexual assault and homicide cases so that the evidence can be reclassified and assigned a bar code – making the evidence more readily retrievable.
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, as well.
“Over the years it’s been very frustrating that evidence couldn’t be located for testing. With these new funds we are confident that some people will finally receive the justice they’ve been waiting for,” said Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld.
Notably, the Innocence Project’s efforts to clear people convicted of crimes in New York City saw the exoneration of Alan Newton, who served 21 years for a rape and robbery he didn’t commit, and Scott Fappiano, who also served 21 years for a rape he didn’t commit.
The two-year period covered by the grant begins on October 1, 2012.