Governor Ryan Calls for DNA Testing Funds to Protect the Innocent
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2000
WASHINGTON -- Governor George H. Ryan today called for increased federal
funding for DNA testing to help Illinois and other states ensure that
only the guilty are convicted in testimony at the House Judiciary Committee
Hearings on the Innocence Protection Act.
The Innocence Protection Act, sponsored by U.S. Representatives Ray
Lahood (R-IL) and William Delahunt (D-Mass.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy,
(D-Vt.), proposes a comprehensive package of criminal justice reforms
aimed at reducing the risk that innocent people will be executed. In
his testimony, Governor Ryan discussed why he declared a moratorium
on executions in Illinois after 13 people were exonerated of crimes
for which they had been sentenced to death.
Governor Ryan said five of the exonerated Illinois Death Row inmates
were cleared by DNA evidence. The Innocence Protection Act would increase
access to DNA testing for state and federal defendants in capital cases.
Noting that Illinois has been at the forefront of forensic science
testing, the Governor stated his support for the National Forensic Science
Improvement Act and for a measure to help states eliminate DNA evidence
backlogs. It would create $768 million in block grants over 5 years
to help improve the quality, availability and timeliness of forensic
services across the country. The act would provide funds to improve
crime labs and to train technicians and scientists.
Governor Ryan also endorsed a measure passed by the House Judiciary
Crime Subcommittee last week to help states begin to clear the extensive
DNA backlog that exists throughout the nation -- a proposed $50 million
over 5 years to help states process their backlogged DNA evidence.
"In Illinois, these block grants could help us catch up with a TEN
MONTH backlog of cases from Chicago and across the state of Illinois.
That is a backlog of 2,500 cases," Governor Ryan said. "That means investigators
can't match evidence from unsolved crimes against updated records. That
means, in some cases, innocent people are sitting in jail waiting for
the evidence that clears them to be processed by the crime lab.
"It also means some criminals continue to walk the streets," Governor
Governor Ryan said the funds from the National Forensic Science Improvement
Act could be used to help continue to convert the existing Chicago and
Illinois State Police forensic and suspect files to the national DNA
While he continues to believe the death penalty can be a proper societal
response for heinous crimes, a view he believes many people still hold,
he believes people share his concerns about the administration of the
"I also believe there is a deep wellspring of fairness in the
people of Illinois and in the United States of America. They want a
system that is fair, that will not convict and execute the innocent,"
Governor Ryan said. "It is in that spirit of fairness and justice that
I believe the Innocence Protection Act was introduced."