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State Conviction Integrity Unit receives federal grant for DNA Testing

LANSING—The Michigan Department of Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) has received federal grant dollars for post-conviction DNA testing to aid in its evaluation of more than 1,700 post-conviction claims of innocence, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, awarded $550,000 to the department to aid in the review of post-conviction DNA testing cases. The Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence grant provides funding to states, local units of government and public institutions of higher education to assist in defraying the costs associated with postconviction case identification, case review, evidence location, and DNA testing in violent felony cases where the results of such testing might show actual innocence. The Department will use grant funds to cover the cost of case reviews, locating evidence, DNA testing of evidence, and hiring of additional staff and experts. 

Nessel launched the department’s Conviction Integrity Unit in 2019 and then partnered with Western Michigan University Cooley Law School to review forensic (including DNA) cases. That same year, the department received $734,930 from the Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence grant and WMU-Cooley Law School received $274,960 from the Upholding the Rule of Law grant. This new grant award will allow this successful partnership to continue.

“Law enforcement officers are duty-bound to pursue justice. That duty is especially important when it comes to correcting the failures of our criminal justice system,” said Nessel. “These grant dollars not only provide our office with the financial resources needed to review cases, but they will also ensure a rigorous and detailed evaluation that keeps dangerous offenders out of Michigan communities, while providing justice to those wrongfully convicted.”

To date, the work of the CIU has resulted in the exoneration of four individuals. The CIU is comprised of Director and Assistant Attorney General Robyn Frankel, Assistant Attorney General Lori Montgomery, Special Agent Khary Mason, and Special Agent Gentry Shelby.

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