Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project announce DOJ grant award

The Department of Justice is awarding a $451,238 grant for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Innocence Project to collaborate on a case review and a DNA testing project. The collaboration is the first of its kind in the state.

Funding from the grant will defray the costs associated with case review, evidence location and DNA testing where the results may show innocence of those convicted of felonies. The grant also supports additional personnel for both offices.

The WCPO Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) and the WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project will work jointly to screen cases to determine whether DNA testing might produce new evidence determinative of guilt. The project will also provide training to grant personnel.

The WCPO CIU became operational in January 2018 and has received over 500 requests for investigation, 250 of which involve forensic evidence. The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project currently has 135 Wayne County cases under review.

The goal of this project is to review and work to conclusion 300 cases involving claims of innocence in violent felony cases. Having access to prosecution records will greatly aid the traditional process, which requires attorneys to file motions to access evidence and obtain testing. Additionally, there will be no need to involve the courts with respect to the testing of evidence, since the parties will jointly decide whether testing may bear upon the reliability of the verdict.