Bill would provide crucial funding for post-conviction DNA testing, help ensure crime lab accountability
(Washington, D.C. —
February 24, 2016
) Today, the Justice For All Reauthorization Act was introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and by Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Jim Costa (D-CA) in the House. The bipartisan legislation reauthorizes critical funding for post-conviction DNA testing and crime labs’ processing of forensic evidence. These important programs have contributed to the exoneration of the wrongfully convicted and the identification of the truly guilty.
“This bill would help improve public safety and accountability by reauthorizing important, evidence-based criminal justice system programs which have led to many exonerations, including those that have identified real perpetrators of crime,” said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project. “The Innocence Project applauds and thanks Sens. Cornyn and Leahy, and Reps. Poe and Costa for introducing this bill, and urges both houses of Congress to swiftly pass it.”
Among its components, the legislation would reauthorize the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program, which has led to the exoneration of 28 wrongfully convicted persons; enhance access to post-conviction DNA testing; and reauthorize the Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Program, which supports capacity of crime labs to process forensic evidence while helping to ensure crime lab accountability.
“The Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program has led to 28 exonerations in 10 states, revealing 10 real perpetrators in those cases, some of whom unfortunately went on to commit other serious, violent crimes,” said Rebecca Brown, Policy Director for the Innocence Project. “The evidence-based programs in the Justice For All Reauthorization Act work to prevent and reveal wrongful convictions, help provide true justice to victims and help ensure greater accountability and fairness in the criminal justice system.”
The National Registry of Exonerations currently lists almost 1,800 exonerations since 1989, 337 of which were based primarily on DNA. In approximately half of the DNA cases, the true perpetrator went on to commit additional serious crimes before being identified. Additionally, 2015 was the third straight record-setting year for the number of exonerations in the U.S., with 149 occurring.