Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On New Justice Department Guidance Promoting DNA Testing In Criminal Cases

(Today, the Justice Department released two reports issuing guidance related to the use of DNA Testing in criminal cases. The first announces that the Justice Department will no longer routinely ask defendants to waive their right to request DNA testing as part of a plea agreement.  The second reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to collecting DNA samples from all people arrested for federal felonies).

“I commend the Attorney General for reversing the Bush administration policy of demanding that defendants waive their right to DNA testing as a requirement of certain plea negotiations.   I authored the Innocence Protection Act to ensure that the guilty are punished and the innocent are exonerated.  The Attorney General’s decision restores proper prosecutorial discretion and furthers my intent in passing that landmark law.  I look forward to working to reauthorize the bill and strengthen key DNA testing provisions as part of the Justice for All Act next year.”

Senator Leahy is the author of the Innocence Protection Act (IPA), which he championed for more than four years before it was incorporated in the 2004 Justice for All Act.  As a former prosecutor, Leahy saw both sides of the crisis that DNA testing has illuminated in clearing those wrongfully convicted – the conviction of the innocent and the fact that those guilty of serious crimes go unpunished.  The IPA includes key grant programs to help state and local law enforcement to ensure they have the tools necessary to convict criminals and exonerate the innocent. In September, Leahy introduced the Justice For All Reauthorization Act, which will strengthen and improve those programs, and will help prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place.

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