Rape Victim Urges Congress to Act Quickly on Bill to Reduce DNA Backlogs

Senate Committee Reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act Passes Unanimously

Oct 31, 2013, 14:35 ET from Robert and Debbie Smith

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In a strong show of bipartisan cooperation, today the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 822, the Justice For All Reauthorization Act of 2014.  The bill reauthorizes several important forensic DNA programs, most notably the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Elimination Act which provides vital funding for public crime laboratories throughout the country. However, if the bill does not become law in the next few months, funding for the program could lapse – resulting in an explosion of backlogged DNA cases at crime laboratories throughout the country, including those of untested rape kits.

Debbie Smith -- a rape victim and advocate, and namesake of the program -- applauded the bill's primary sponsors, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), along with the other nine cosponsors of the bill [Coons (D-DE), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Hatch (R-UT), Klobuchar (D-MN), McConnell (R-KY), Portman (R-OH), Udall (D-NM)], for their leadership in championing this important public safety bill.

"I am so grateful for the Senate's continued support of this program," said Mrs. Smith, "and I sincerely hope that Congress will act quickly on this bill so that funding can continue uninterrupted." 

Mrs. Smith's delight with the Senate Committee vote was tempered by her concern over prospects of moving the bill through both the Senate and House in time for the FY 2015 appropriations request process (typically initiated in early 2014). "The true costs of failing to act quickly on this bill will ultimately be measured not in terms of dollars and cents, but in the human costs of delays in bringing criminals to justice and hope to victims," she stated.   

Because of a significant DNA backlog, Debbie Smith waited nearly seven years before her attacker was identified. Her ordeal began on March 3, 1989 when Debbie was abducted from her home, dragged into the woods and raped. Her husband, an off-duty police officer, was asleep upstairs. Her perpetrator was eventually caught through the national DNA database system known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). Years later, Debbie took her story to the U.S. Congress, and her efforts culminated in the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Program created by Congress on October 30, 2004. 

For more information on Debbie Smith, please visit www.H-E-A-R-T.info

SOURCE Robert and Debbie Smith