Board Resolution ~ 08/02/2008

On the Notification of the Existence of DNA Evidence in Virginia

Resolution of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers On the Notification of the Existence of DNA Evidence in Virginia  

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
August 2, 2008

WHEREAS, for many years, prior to 2001, criminal defendants in Virginia who requested post-conviction DNA testing to prove their innocence were told that the Virginia Department of Forensic Science (the Lab) did not retain any evidence that could be tested,

WHEREAS, in 2001, the Lab admitted that its examiners had routinely saved evidentiary samples of biological material in case files during the years 1973-1988, and that these samples still existed at the Lab and were suitable for DNA testing,

WHEREAS, after three wrongfully convicted defendants were able to prove their innocence by analyzing the DNA of the evidentiary samples in their cases, Virginia Governor Mark Warner ordered DNA testing of a randomly selected sample of 31 cases,

WHEREAS, the random selected sample testing resulted in two more exonerations,

WHEREAS, in 2005, Governor Warner ordered the Lab to conduct a DNA analysis of all retained samples from 1973-1988,

WHEREAS, this project has been delayed, and no results have been announced,

WHEREAS, the Lab has not notified any convicted defendants that this evidence has been discovered in their case files,

WHEREAS, in March, 2008, the Virginia General Assembly ordered the Forensic Science Board, the policy board that oversees the Lab, to make those notifications,

WHEREAS, through the assistance of the Virginia State Bar and other statewide bar associations, approximately 200 lawyers have volunteered to locate, verify, and notify, pro bono, those people who were convicted that biological evidence exists in their case that may be analyzed for DNA,

WHEREAS, lawyers are uniquely trained, qualified, and experienced in providing notice of facts or events in which the recipients might have an interest,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Virginia Forensic Science Board, be encouraged to proceed without delay to notify each person who was convicted and for whom this evidence has been discovered that this evidence exists at the Lab and can be tested for DNA, and,

FURTHER RESOLVED that the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Virginia Forensic Science Board, be encouraged to accept the pro bono attorney assistance that has been volunteered as the most reliable and effective means of providing this notice to the proper individuals, and,

FURTHER RESOLVED that those Virginia attorneys who have volunteered for this work be commended for their willingness to participate in this important pro bono public service. 

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