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DNA Backlog Measure Approved by Congress

On September 25, the Senate approved, by unanimous consent, theDebbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 5057), after adopting, also by unanimous consent, a substitute amendment by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). The House approved the bill on July 14 (see The Source, 7/18/08).

The substitute amendment would appropriate $151 million per year for FY2009-2014 for a program aimed to mitigate the processing backlog of DNA samples used to investigate and prosecute sexual assault suspects.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, “I should take this opportunity to thank Debbie Smith for her courage and for the tireless efforts of her and her husband, Rob, on behalf of rape victims. In her own case, DNA testing led to the arrest and conviction of her attacker, but the backlog of rape kits waiting to be tested forced her to endure an excruciating wait before the culprit could be found and justice could be done. The legislation that she inspired and worked so hard to pass aims to ensure that other victims do not have to live in fear through a long and unnecessary delay.” He continued, “The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program has given states help they desperately needed, and continue to need, to carry out DNA analyses of backlogged evidence. It has provided a strong starting point in addressing this serious problem, but much work remains to be done before we conquer these inexcusable backlogs. That is why I so strongly support reauthorization of this vital program.”

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