06.16.16

Senate Passes Leahy-Authored Bill To Improve Criminal Justice System

Senate Approves Leahy-Authored Bill
To Improve Criminal Justice System

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

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, June 16, 2016) – The Senate on Thursday unanimously 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, coauthored by Leahy and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), supports critical grant programs which provide funding for forensic testing, including rape kits. 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 Act will also renew 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 have great faith in our criminal justice system and in the men and women who have dedicated their lives to making it work,” Leahy said. “But we also know that our justice system is imperfect. It is an outrage when an innocent person is wrongly punished, and this injustice is compounded when the true perpetrator remains on the streets, able to commit more crimes. And it is unacceptable to let rape victims live in fear while evidence languishes in storage and criminals remain on our streets.”

Leahy noted: “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. Passage of this bipartisan bill is long overdue, but it is an important step that we celebrate today.”

Senator Leahy’s full statement on the Justice for All Reauthorization Act is available online.

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