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VA's DNA Testing & Notification Project

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Modern DNA testing of biological evidence left in files decades ago by a now-deceased Virginia scientist has exonerated 11 individuals who had been convicted of felonies.  At the direction of the General Assembly, the State Crime Commission has been trying to track down and notify 975 convicted suspects of their more recent test results.

Although the DNA testing and notification project has been ongoing for more than a decade, the project is still not finished.

Most cases involved sex offenses and murders. So far, the tests have confirmed many felons’ guilt, while ruling out that the DNA of 80 suspects was not present at the crime scenes. But Commission policy analyst Holly Boyle said questions remain about a large number of tests performed 8 to 10 years ago.

“Currently there are 482 convicted suspects whose testing results yielded insufficient data that could possibly benefit from having their information run again with the newer technology.”

Forensic Science DNA program manager Brad Jenkins said outdated procedures first used 30 or 40 years ago have caused some problems.

“The spermatozoa seemed to survive that testing procedure, and so the DNA results from many of those types of cases we have profiles that we can search.  The blood evidence and saliva evidence did not survive that testing procedure very well.”

Given the costs of $3,000 per test, the Commission voted to prioritize—to re-test the viable samples of incarcerated felons first, then the blood and other evidence of the same population, followed by re-testing the samples of those who are no longer in prison.

Additionally, the members voted to prioritize any remaining test notifications to those who are still in prison if the results confirm their elimination as suspects.  They also agreed to notify the spouse, children, or parents of convicted suspects who have died.