2004-10-15 / Community

Weiner Bill Aimed At DNA Backlog

The House has passed legislation proposed by Representative Anthony Weiner and a bipartisan coalition of legislators designed to eliminate the national backlog of crime scene DNA evidence.  Weiner’s legislation, included as part of the Justice For All Act provides $105 million to test crime scene evidence and to train nurses to treat sexual assault cases, including millions for New York City.

In 1996, New York began storing DNA samples from convicted felons in data banks, and comparing them to samples taken from crime scenes. But for years “rape kits”-DNA collected during rape investigations-went untested, with 16,000 piling up in police warehouses. 

Last year the city completed a three- year program to eliminate the backlog, thanks to a multi-million dollar investment by the City. But a Department of Justice study commissioned by Weiner found that officials estimate that there are up to 542,000 still untested DNA evidence collection kits across the U.S.

That means as many as 542,000 victims of rape, sexual assault, and other violent crimes are waiting and waiting and waiting—sometimes for up to 10 years or more—for their assailants to be brought to justice.      

The Justice for All Act was crafted by a bipartisan, bicameral coalition of legislators, including Weiner, Senators Biden and Hatch, and Reps. Green, Sensenbrenner, Delahunt, LaHood, Nadler, and Maloney, and includes a number of proposals previously introduced or negotiated by Weiner. 

The bill would:

Increase funding to test DNA crime scene evidence to $75 million a year for the next four years.

Make funding available directly to local, rather than only state, governments.

Create a new Forensic Evidence Backlog Elimination program to fund the testing of other forensic evidence, like fingerprints, ballistics and toxicology.

Provide $30 million a year for SANE training, to train nurses to handle sexual assault cases.

Three years ago, Weiner authored the DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 , which became the first bill to ever provide federal funding to states to test unprocessed crime scene DNA evidence.

In the 107th Congress, Weiner introduced the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act to extend the authorization of the DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 until 2008, as well as increase funding for the analysis of crime scene samples by $300 million and for the analysis of convicted offender samples by $75 million.   

In the 108th Congress, he reintroduced the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act Congress with Rep. Mark Green (R-WI).  Weiner then worked with the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee to include his provisions in the Achieving Justice Through DNA Technology Act , and, ultimately, the Justice for All Act .

“For those interested in solving crimes, DNA is a miracle, better than any fingerprint or eyewitness testimony,” said Weiner.  “It breathes new life into cold cases, solving hundreds in New York City alone, and generating leads in hundreds more.  DNA is our best tool to victims of violent crime and their families.”  

Grants under the bill will be distributed via a formula developed by DOJ, with population a prime criteria.  Under the formula, New York City will receive millions over the next five years.

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