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WASHINGTON � The Senate Judiciary Committee has challenged the U.S. Department of Justice to explain why it has not approved a single grant to states under a federal post-conviction testing program despite congressional funding of nearly $14 million in the past three years. “Not a dime” has gone out to the states, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said on Jan. 23, adding, “That is wrong. That is scandalous.” The DNA program was part of the Innocence Protection Act, a title within the Justice for All Act, signed into law in 2004. The program’s purpose is to help defray the costs of DNA testing by awarding grants to states. The statute calls for the appropriation of $5 million annually through 2009. Frustration in Virginia Peter Marone, director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and chairman of the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, also criticized DOJ’s management of the program. “The time permitted to respond to these [grant] solicitations from the Department of Justice has been just four weeks,” said Marone. Virginia, Marone said, was able to comply because it had statutes in place already. “We were confident that this provision met the solicitation and were frustrated when advised that we did not meet the requirement to obtain this funding.” DOJ’s John Morgan, deputy director for science and technology at the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), told the judiciary committee that only three states had replied to the 2007 grant announcement, and none was in compliance with the legal requirements of the statute. Under the statute, Morgan said, a state grantee is required to demonstrate that all jurisdictions within the state comply in practice with the requirements of the DNA program provisions � that it has a DNA testing program in place and is preserving blood samples. Other grant programs, he said, require states to “certify” that they are fulfilling the law’s requirements � a significantly lesser burden. “It looks like the department has interpreted the statute so restrictively that even states like Arizona [which has a comprehensive program] are rejected,” Leahy said. But Morgan said recent legislation will change the “demonstrate” requirement to “certify.” The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, he said, will make the tools more widely available, by providing the language NIJ needs to apply unobligated funds appropriated in fiscal years 2006 and 2007, as well as funds for 2008.

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