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The Michigan Department of Attorney General and Western Michigan University Cooley Law School are partnering to receive over $1 million in federal grants that will be used to help them review 600 claims of innocence from people after they are convicted.
The Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence grant provided the Michigan Department of Attorney General with $734,930, while the Upholding the Rule of Law grant provided WMU-Cooley Law School with $274,960. The grants require the Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) and the WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project to assess if unreliable forensic practices led to a conviction in cases of plausible innocence.
“We have a responsibility to ensure those convicted of state crimes by county prosecutors and our office are in fact guilty of those crimes,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press release. “These grants not only provide our office with the financial resources needed to review these cases, but they will also ensure a rigorous and detailed evaluation that keeps dangerous offenders out of Michigan communities, while providing justice to those wrongfully convicted.”
In addition to covering the cost of reviewing criminal convictions, the grants will also help pay for testing evidence, applying new forensic tools, locating evidence, and hiring more staff. The aim of the grants is to both better the criminal justice system’s reliability and support the uniform application of due process.
“We look forward to working with the Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit,” WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Director Marla Mitchell-Cichon said in a press release. “Both offices have the same goals — to rectify wrongful convictions and to improve Michigan’s criminal justice system.”
So far, the Innocence project has about 175 cases being reviewed, while the CIU has over 500 requests for assistance.
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