LANSING, Mich. – A federal grant is going to help Michigan evaluate more than 1,700 cases where someone convicted of a crime proclaimed their innocence.
The Michigan Department of Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) received the federal grant to help with DNA testing in the cases.
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 grant provides funding to assist with the costs associated with postconviction case identification, review, evidence location and DNA testing in violent felony cases where the results might show actual innocence. Michigan will use the funding to cover the cost of case reviews, locate evidence, DNA test the evidence and hire 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.”
So far, the CIU has helped exonerate four people. 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.