DOJ Fails to Grant Funds Allocated for DNA Testing

At recent Congressional hearings, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the Department of Justice as to why it has not approved any grants under the Kirk Bloodsworth DNA Post-Conviction Testing Program. Part of the Innocence Protection Act of 2004, the purpose of the program was to help defray DNA testing costs through grants to individual states. It has had congressional funding of almost $14 million over the past three years, but has failed to dole out any of the funds. Kirk Bloodsworth (pictured), the first person on death row to be exonerated by DNA evidence, after whom the program is named, told the committee, "The failure of this Department of Justice to grant states money under the Bloodsworth program is not accidental, nor is it the result of the states' failure to comply with the grant's provisions. The DOJ has been against this program from the very beginning."

The provisions of the program require that a state wishing to be granted funds must have a DNA testing program in place and are preserving blood samples. Thus far, only 3 states have applied to the program, but none were in compliance with the provisions, including Arizona, which has a comprehensive DNA testing program. Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy stated, “If Arizona can't make it, I'm beginning to wonder if any state in the nation can make it."

Some forensic specialists also believe the program is not being managed effectively. Peter Marone, director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and chairman of the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, indicated that the time constraints were unreasonable: "The time permitted to respond to these [grant] solicitations from the Department of Justice has been just four weeks. Unfortunately, the solicitation requirements were not available to any of the laboratories prior to the solicitation announcement; therefore, four weeks meant four weeks. Further, compliance with these requirements has required implementation of new legislation or at least an amendment of existing statutes at the state level."
(“DOJ upbraided over stalled DNA program,” by Marcia Coyle, National Law Journal, January 28, 2008). See Innocence and Recent Legislative Activity.