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Denver DNA Justice Review Project

 

 

The Denver District Attorney’s Office has partnered with the Colorado Attorney’s General Office to establish the DNA Justice Review Project. The purpose of the project is to fulfill a prosecutor’s responsibility to see that justice is done in every criminal case. This DNA exoneration project applies today’s state of the art DNA technology to the review of a specific group of criminal cases in Colorado.

While there have been no post-conviction exonerations to date from the use of new DNA technology in Colorado, there have been a few cases where such testing provided the basis for a new trial, dismissal of charges, or reconsideration of charges. The overall goal is to review post-conviction cases of forcible rape, murder, and non-negligent manslaughter to determine whether biological evidence may exist that might, through DNA analysis, demonstrate actual innocence.

The number of cases to be reviewed for the project is projected to be 5,125. This number is derived from the total number of persons currently incarcerated in Colorado for forcible rape, murder, and non-negligent manslaughter. It is estimated that one percent (1%) of these cases, or a total of 11 in the City and County of Denver and 40 cases outside of Denver will be identified through the project protocol for post-conviction DNA testing. The review of cases began in January of 2010 and is currently underway.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office has convened a Steering Committee comprised of representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, Denver District Attorney’s Office, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and Colorado District Attorneys Council to oversee the project.

Six legal interns from the University of Denver College of Law will be recruited to do the initial review of cases. The legal interns will submit a Case Review Report to their supervising Senior Attorney who will determine whether the case should be presented to the Project Case Review Panel. This decision is based on several criteria, including whether the biological evidence still exists and is in appropriate condition for DNA typing.

The Project Case Review Panel shall be comprised of a representative from the Attorney General’s Office, Denver District Attorney’s Office, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Public Defender’s Office, Office of Alternative Defense Counsel, and the Colorado District Attorney’s Council.

If the Project Case Review Panel decides to go forward with DNA typing, the evidence will be tested by either the Denver Police Department Crime Laboratory or the Colorado Bureau of Investigation Laboratory. Before testing is done, a Victim Advocate will make contact with the victim(s) or next of kin to insure they are informed and can exercise all of their rights under the state Crime Victim Rights constitutional amendment. If post-conviction DNA testing establishes a reasonable probability of a more favorable verdict or sentence, the Attorney General or District Attorney will file a request with the trial court seeking the appropriate remedy.

In 2012 the first phase of the Justice Review Project was completed: 5,125 cases were reviewed. One murder case from the Grand Junction, Colorado area was submitted to the Project Case Review Panel, which decided to go forward with DNA typing. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation Laboratory conducted DNA testing on certain items from the case - that testing resulted in the exoneration of Robert Dewey. (See: News Story re: Dewey, Dewey clip). News Story re Dewey.pdf Dewey KUSA_04-27-2012.wmv

If you have any questions regarding the Denver DNA Justice Review Project contact:

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dawn Weber daw@denverda.org or Senior Criminal Investigator Michael Wilson mdw@denverda.org