Leahy-Backed Grant Program Reauthorization To Address DNA Backlogs Passes Senate

WASHINGTON (Thursday, September 25, 2008) – Legislation championed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) to authorize grants for the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program was passed unanimously by the Senate Thursday.  Leahy and Biden have been longtime leaders in authoring legislation to provide resources to federal, state and local governments to combat crime in communities across the country.


The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program was authorized in 2004 as part of the Justice for All Act, which provides needed resources and grant money to state and local governments to combat crime with DNA technology.  The bill that passed Thursday authorizes $755 million over the next five years to reduce the current backlog of unanalyzed DNA samples in crime labs across the country.  The grant program provides resources to help carry out DNA analyses of backlogged evidence.


“Backlogs have seriously impeded the use of DNA testing in solving cases without suspects – and reexamining cases in which there are strong claims of innocence – as labs are required to give priority status to those cases in which a suspect is known,” said Leahy.  “Solely for lack of funding, critical evidence remains untested while rapists and killers remain at large.”


Leahy continued, “I am glad that the Senate has passed it, and I hope the House promptly passes this version of the bill, and the President promptly signs it.  I hope too that Congress fully funds this important program.”


The grant program is named for Debbie Smith.  A victim of rape herself, Smith worked with Leahy, Biden and others to establish the grant program.  In her own case, DNA testing led to the arrest and conviction of her attacker.  The processing backlog, however, forced her to wait before her attacker was identified and justice could be done.


The bill now heads to the House for approval. 

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