11.29.16

House Approves Bill Championed By Leahy To Improve Criminal Justice System

. . . Renewal Of Leahy’s Groundbreaking Innocence Protection Act Facilitates Post-Conviction Use Of DNA Evidence

WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, November 29, 2016) – The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved legislation long championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to help ensure that the criminal justice system functions fairly. 

The Justice for All Reauthorization Act supports critical grant programs which provide funding for forensic testing, including rape kits.  The House-passed measure closely mirrors legislation coauthored by Leahy and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), which passed the Senate in June.  On Tuesday, Leahy called on the Senate to pass the slightly modified bill in order to get it to the President’s desk and signed into law.

“The Justice for All Reauthorization Act provides tools to strengthen indigent defense, expand the rights of crime victims, improve the use of forensic evidence and test rape kits, and protect the innocent by increasing access to post-conviction DNA testing.  Now that the House has finally passed this bipartisan legislation, the Senate should do the same this week,” Leahy said.  

Leahy has long worked to reduce the rape kit backlog and advance several bills in support of sexual assault survivors.  In 2014, he led the successful reauthorization of legislation to renew the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Reduction Program.  Leahy also included language in the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Act, enacted in 2013, to increase the resources for survivors of sexual assault and to reduce the rape kit backlog.

The Justice for All Reauthorization Act also renews the Innocence Protection Act, a landmark Leahy law which includes the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Grant Program. That program facilitates the use of post-conviction testing of DNA evidence that can exonerate the wrongly convicted and hold accountable the guilty.  It also includes important measures to help ensure that all criminal defendants, including those who cannot afford a lawyer, receive effective representation. 

“As a former prosecutor, I am dedicated to ensuring that our criminal justice system has integrity and the confidence of the public it serves.  It is an outrage when an innocent person is wrongly punished, and it is unacceptable to let rape victims live in fear while evidence languishes in storage and criminals remain on our streets,” Leahy said.  “As we consider legislation next Congress to support crime victims, we must remember that we as policymakers have an obligation to look out for all victims and to enact policies that create fairness in the criminal justice system.  Our work today is an example of what we can do when we work together.”

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