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GIP Is Working with Crime Lab and Prosecutors to Discover Innocence Cases:
CODIS Hits and Evidence in GBI Custody
In 2013, GIP, in partnership with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia (PAC), received a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to identify new innocence claims. This unique partnership between law enforcement, prosecutors and defense has yielded amazing results.
Georgia is the first state in the country to conduct a comprehensive review of all CODIS cases.
CODIS is the acronym for the “Combined DNA Index System.” Implemented in 1998, CODIS contains DNA profiles from crime scenes (forensic profiles) and DNA profiles from people convicted of crimes (offender profiles). The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) database contains more than 265,000 offender profiles and nearly 14,500 forensic profiles. When new forensic profiles are collected at new crime scenes, they are routinely compared to offender profiles already in the database to try to identify the perpetrator; when there is a match it is referred to as a “CODIS hit.”
But what happens when a CODIS hit points to a different perpetrator in a crime where the wrong person has already been incarcerated? That’s what we wanted to find out. The GBI provided all PAC information on all CODIS hits beginning in 2008. PAC is investigating each hit. If a hit came back to a case that ended in a conviction AND the CODIS hit identified someone other than the person convicted, PAC sends the case to GIP for further investigation.
To date, we have identified one individual who was wrongfully convicted, Michael Googe. In Mr. Googe’s case the CODIS hit matched the person who told police that Mr. Googe committed the crime.
We do not believe Mr. Googe is the only person in prison for a crime they did not commit who could be exonerated. The next phase of this project will be to review the CODIS hits pre-2008.
Our innovative work on the CODIS cases and our unprecedented partnership with the state prosecutors, we are on the forefront of developing policy about defense access to CODIS hits that will impact innocent people in every state. In addition, the procedures we have developed to investigate CODIS cases can serve as a model for other states.
GBI Evidence Vault
Another project undertaken by the DOJ grant is a review of all the evidence in GBI custody. The GBI has identified and cataloged biological evidence from more than 13,000 cases that is in their evidence vault. GBI provided GIP this list of evidence and GIP has begun gathering information about these cases to determine if this evidence could relate to a viable innocence claims.
As with the CODIS hits, each case is being reviewed to determine if the case resulted in a conviction. If there was a conviction, the case is investigated to determine if the evidence still in existence will provide valuable information about the crime. After a complete investigation and evaluation, if DNA testing could lead to the identity of the true perpetrator, GIP will work with prosecutors and the GBI to test the evidence.