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Blackburn, Cornyn, colleagues introduce bill to reauthorize Debbie Smith Act, fight rape kit backlog
Published February 22, 2023; 12:14 p.m.

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced legislation to reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act, which would provide state and local law enforcement agencies with resources to complete forensic analyses of crime scenes and untested rape kits.

“Last year, a school teacher and mother of two young boys was murdered while out on an early morning run in Memphis. In the following days, law enforcement learned that in September 2021, her alleged killer had raped another innocent victim. The rape kit from that 2021 attack was processed and returned the same day the teacher’s body was discovered, with DNA matching that of the alleged killer. Had it not taken a year for Memphis Police to have the kit processed by TBI and receive the results, this woman would be alive today because her killer would have already been behind bars. Reauthorizing the Debbie Smith Act is critical in the fight to end the rape kit backlog and keep dangerous criminals off the streets,” said Senator Blackburn.

“This landmark legislation has played a critical role in the fight to end backlogs of untested kits in cities across America,” said Senator Cornyn. “By reauthorizing key programs created under the Debbie Smith Act, we can empower law enforcement to continue testing DNA evidence to solve crimes and support survivors.”

“DNA evidence is critical for achieving justice for sexual assault victims,” said Senator Feinstein. “The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant program has dramatically reduced the backlog of untested DNA rape kits, helping us get more dangerous predators off the streets. The program is set to expire next year so it’s vital that Congress passes our bill to reauthorize this important program for another five years.”

The Debbie Smith Act is also cosponsored by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

This legislation is endorsed by Debbie Smith, the Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs, Major County Sheriffs of America, National District Attorneys Association, Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), and Joyful Heart Foundation.

• The Debbie Smith Act was originally signed into law in 2004 to provide local and state crime laboratories resources to end the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved crimes, analyze DNA samples, and increase the capacity to process DNA in order to guard against future backlogs.
• Since it became law, more than 860,000 DNA cases have been processed.
• In addition to crime scene evidence, Debbie Smith funds are also utilized to process offender DNA samples to ensure evidence from unsolved crimes can be matched against a database of known offenders, similar to the criminal fingerprint databases.


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