Leahy Ushers Legislation To Reduce Rape Kit Backlogs Through The Senate Thursday Night

Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Reduction Act Heads To White House For Signature

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2014) – U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday praised the Senate’s passage of legislation to reauthorize the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Reduction Program and urged Senators to support passage of a broader criminal justice bill – the Justice For All reauthorization bill – in the upcoming lameduck session.  Leahy late Thursday brought the bill directly to the Senate Floor and asked unanimous consent for the Senate to pass it.  He secured that consent, and the bill passed and now goes to the President’s desk.

“The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Reduction Act has provided significant funding to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits so that victims need not live in fear while rape kits languish in storage,” Leahy said.  “When we return in November, I hope Senators from both sides will act once again to support criminal justice reforms that help victims of crime and ensure that only the truly guilty are punished.  The Justice for All Reauthorization Act can accomplish just that.”

The Justice for All Reauthorization Act, which Leahy has long fought to extend, includes reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act as well as several other critical programs for forensic testing and post-conviction DNA testing, has broad bipartisan support and has been pending in the Senate since last year. The bill is cosponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and it was supported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee last year.

The Debbie Smith Act, which previously passed the House and now goes to the White House for signature, is named after Debbie Smith, who waited years after being attacked before her rape kit was tested and the perpetrator was caught.  Leahy has long supported the program and most recently included language in the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Act to reduce the rape kit backlog.  All Democratic Senators and nearly half the Republican caucus supported passage of the Leahy-Crapo VAWA bill, which included important protections for college students, tribal women, and members of the LGBT community.  Just as the Senate came together to support those victims, Leahy urged all Senators to once again show their support for all victims of crime by supporting the Justice for All Reauthorization Act.

“When we passed the Leahy-Crapo VAWA bill last year, we showed the country it was possible to stand with all victims of domestic and sexual violence.  We ignored the critics in the House who tried to divide us, and we refused to let them pit survivors of injustice against one another,” Leahy said. “Now we must reauthorize the Justice for All Act, which includes the post-conviction DNA testing program that is a lifeline to the wrongfully convicted.  It is a lifeline for many victims of crime, and we should join together to reauthorize this important bill.”

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