The Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield, has won a $641,000 grant for DNA testing intended to help exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates.
The grant will be used over the course of two years. $200,000 of the funds must be used in DNA testing for two types of cases: potential eye witness misidentifications and false confessions.
John Hanlon, Executive Director of the Illinois Innocence Project, says DNA testing is often necessary for the cases he takes on, but also very costly. The most basic test is roughly $1,000.
“The problem is, many of these cases involve evidence that’s degraded," says Hanlon. "It’s very old so it’s degraded. When you’re dealing with degraded evidence you often have to start with the basic kind of procedures to get a DNA profile, but then they often have to go to second and third levels and every level costs more.”
Hanlon also cited a recent mass exoneration in Chicago as an example of a case this grant will allow them to take on. “Because of the misdeeds of one police officer, 15 people were exonerated. The speculation is that by the time all of the misdeeds by this officer are uncovered that the number of cases will be in the hundreds.”
The grant will also be used to pay attorney fees and fund student employment, which is vital for the project.