Justice for All: Senate to Consider Renewal of Key Law

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Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today introduced S. 822, the Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2013, which would renew and expand existing law to better use DNA technology to combat crimes. It would also renew the Debbie Smith Act, widely considered the most important anti-rape legislation ever passed by Congress.

The Debbie Smith Act is named after rape survivor Debbie Smith, who, in 1989, was kidnapped from her home and raped while her husband, a police officer, was asleep upstairs. Six years later, her perpetrator was finally caught through CODIS, the national DNA database.

The Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2013 would responsibly reduce overall funding, in recognition of record federal deficits, while protecting the key anti-crime programs and programs that exonerate the innocent. Justice for All has historically enjoyed wide bipartisan support, passing by large margins in 2004 and 2008.

“Earlier this year, Congress improved the Debbie Smith Act by passing the SAFER Act, to help reduce the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved rape cases,” said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN. “The next thing that needs to happen is for Congress to renew the Justice for All Act, which will extend the Debbie Smith law for five years and take thousands of rapists off the streets. We appreciate the leadership of Sens. Leahy and Cornyn, who have teamed up to ensure this bill gets passed.”

Sen. Leahy stated, "This legislation reauthorizes the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Reduction Act, which has provided significant funding to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits so that victims need not live in fear while kits languish in storage...Today, we rededicate ourselves to building a criminal justice system in which the innocent remain free, the guilty are punished, and all sides have the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to advance the cause of justice."

“I’m proud to join with fellow members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to protect programs that bring justice for so many victims of heinous crimes. Additionally, this Act will help spare many from becoming the victim of a wrongful conviction by improving the way DNA evidence is processed and used. Putting these measures in place will provide greater protections to the public and the innocent, while providing victims with a swifter avenue for justice,” said Sen. Cornyn.

Also today, in recognition of the confluence of National DNA Day, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Sens. Cornyn and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) sent a letter to colleagues highlighting the key role forensic DNA plays in protecting and advancing public safety.

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