The Denver Police Department has reviewed thousands of unsolved criminal cases looking for cases containing DNA evidence that could be re-examined with new technology.
Criminals who thought they had gotten away with their crime may find that technology and persistence are catching up with them. And victims who thought their attacker might never be caught have new hope.
DENVER COLD CASE PROJECT
A Brief discussion of the Denver DNA Cold Case Project - 2008
Cracking Cold Cases, Protector, PFIA, Summer 2011
Denver is a national leader in expanding the use of forensic DNA to improve public safety through cold case investigation and the prosecution of filed cold cases. This success is the result of an unprecedented interdisciplinary collaboration between the Denver Police Department (“DPD”), the forensic scientists in the Denver Police Crime Laboratory, the Denver District Attorney’s Office (“DA”), and victim advocates at DPD and the DA’s Office. This collaboration, which evolved over decades, has yielded the greatest results since Denver’s Integrated Cold Case Project began in 2004. By working together, these Denver law enforcement agencies have investigated and successfully prosecuted cold cases using DNA matches obtained through the national law enforcement DNA database, CODIS (the COmbined DNA Index System). These CODIS matches have enabled Denver prosecutors to secure convictions in a number of violent cold cases. See some of these cases in table below.
|EXAMPLES OF DENVER COLD CASE PROSECUTIONS
||Murdered a woman in 1994; DNA evidence and a confession to a cellmate led to a conviction of Murder in the First Degree in 2007
||Life in the Department of Corrections (DOC) without parole
||Serial sex offender who sexually assaulted victim in her home in 1992; investigation of the case revealed two other victims sexually assaulted in nearly identical manner
||25-years in DOC, to run consecutive to 60-year sentence imposed in prior sexual assault
||Serial sex offender who assaulted and paralyzed victim in 1994 after sexually assaulting her and leaving her on live railroad tracks
||80 years in DOC
||Serial sex offender who sexually assaulted victim at gunpoint in 1996 and who later admitted to hundreds of other acts of sexual violence
||60 years in DOC
||Serial sex offender who sexually assaulted victim at knife-point in her bed in the middle of the night in 1996; prosecuted as an habitual criminal
||72 years in DOC
||Sex offender who viciously beat victim before sexually assaulting her in a parking garage in 1999; identified by a rootless hair left on victim’s skirt
||30 years in DOC
||Sex offender who sexually assaulted victim in her bed in the middle of the night in 2005; habitual criminal
||96 years in DOC to life
CURRENT PROJECT STATUS THROUGH 2012
FUTURE GOALS FOR THE PROJECT
The first phase of the pilot project has now gained critical momentum: the DNA Unit of the Denver Police Crime Laboratory is fully staffed, with analysts hired, trained and producing large numbers of DNA analyses; combined victim services are delivering vital support and advocacy; the District Attorneys have full caseloads; and the DPD Cold Case Unit detectives have many active investigations underway. The momentum of the program keeps building: of the 8 homicide cases that have been filed, 6 have been filed during the current phase of the pilot project. Moreover, an additional 200 cold cases are in the queue for DNA testing.
Continuing this important work will ensure that a model exists for effective replication at any law enforcement site - local, state or federal - based on Denver’s success. This project has influenced public safety by:
- Positively impacting the lives of victims and their families;
- Bringing violent, serial offenders to justice after years of escaping responsibility for their acts (often committing heinous crimes in the meantime);
- Sharing Denver’s knowledge about how to create a coordinated effort to use DNA, the single most powerful law enforcement tool that has been developed in the modern era.
The potential value of this program cannot be overstated. Denver’s template for solving cold case crime by uniting key law enforcement agencies has demonstrated dramatic and measurable results that can be replicated across the country. At a time when the general population is aware and supportive of the use of DNA science and forensic techniques in law enforcement, Denver is now a leader in the nation and will continue to create sustainable, effective method for solving cold cases.
Cold-Case Investigations An Analysis of Current Practices and Factors Associated with Successful Outcomes Robert C. Davis, Carl Jensen, Karin E. Kitchens, October 2011. Cold Case Study Rand.pdf
Denver DA Mitch Morrissey and DNA expert Greggory LaBerge appeared on KDTVChannel 8 recently to talk about the progress of the DNA Cold Case project.
Denver Cold Case Project Video