Vermont Business Magazine Legislation long championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) to help ensure that the criminal justice system functions fairly now goes to the White House for signature after the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill on Thursday. The Justice for All Reauthorization Act aims to reduce the rape kit backlog by supporting grant programs that fund forensic testing.
The bill, coauthored by Leahy and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), also renews 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 the guilty accountable. The bill also requires the Justice Department to assist state and local governments to improve their indigent defense systems and ensures implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
“I have long championed the Justice for All Act to make our justice system more fair,” said Leahy, a former prosecutor. “Our bill will strengthen indigent defense and expand the rights of crime victims. It will improve the use of forensic evidence, including rape kits, to provide justice swiftly. It will help protect the innocent by increasing access to post-conviction DNA testing.”
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 effort to pass legislation renewing the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Reduction Program. Leahy also included language in the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Act, enacted in 2013, that significantly increased resources for survivors of sexual assault.
The Justice for All Reauthorization Act builds on Leahy’s work on the Violence Against Women Act by including key housing protections for victims of abuse whose partners get evicted for domestic violence. Finally, the bill builds upon the success of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by making it easier for crime victims to have an interpreter present during court proceedings and to obtain court-ordered restitution.
“It has been my great honor to serve as the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee since 1997. During that time I have worked with Senators from both sides of the aisle to craft solutions to some of the most important problems of our time. I am proud to join with my partner Senator Cornyn on this legislation, and the many advocates who have helped guide our work,” Leahy said. “As we consider legislation next Congress, we must remember that we have a continuing obligation to look out for all victims and to create fairness in our criminal justice system.”
Source: WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, Dec. 2, 2016) – Leahy