Jan. 14, 2003
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
S. 152. A bill to assess the extent of the backlog in DNA analysis of rape kit samples, and to improve investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases with DNA evidence; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I am pleased to cosponsor this important legislation to address the shameful backlog of unanalyzed DNA evidence in rape kits. Senator BIDEN, Senator SPECTOR and I worked closely on this issue last year and this bill is an excellent compromise that combines aspects of bills introduced by myself and by Senator BIDEN. This bill provides critical resources to State and Federal Governments to ensure that all the DNA evidence sitting in storage rooms across the country can be tested and perpetrators found and convicted. As more and more states have moved to require DNA samples from all convicted felons, the Federal resources that this bill provides to aid in the building of convicted offender records has also become more critical. The bill unanimously passed both the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate last year. It once again has strong bipartisan support, and I anticipate that we will work quickly to pass the bill in this new Congress, so that the bill can also pass the House of Representatives and become law. This bill reauthorizes a 2000 bill and time is of the essence as those authorizations expire soon. The power of DNA to find and convict rapists in cases where there have never even been an identified suspect cannot be overstated. We must act now to help law enforcement and prosecutors across the country be able to make full use of the most valuable tool at their disposal.
One of the things that I am most pleased about is that the grant program in this bill to fund DNA testing of existing rape kits throughout the country will bear the name of Debbie Smith. In her testimony before the Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee last June, she proved herself an extraordinary spokesperson on the power of DNA evidence to bring not just justice but peace to victims of sexual assault.
The heart of this bill is about getting DNA evidence from rape cases that is currently sitting in police evidence rooms tested and checked against the DNA profiles of convicted felons. We all know that DNA is a tool that works and as more states begin building their felon data bases, more and more cases of rape where police have no suspect are being solved.
We owe every woman in this country who has had the courage to come forward and undergo an invasive physical exam and evidence gathering after the trauma of a sexual assault, at a minimum, the absolute guarantee that the collected evidence is being checked against known felons. That is what this bill does.
In my state of Washington alone, in the past five years at least 12,950 women have submitted to humiliating and traumatic exams for the collection of evidence that has not been analyzed to help solve their rape. When applied on a national scale, these findings would indicate a national backlog of 615,000 cases of untested evidence. Washington State University is currently in the process of conducting a national assessment of the backlog of rape kits and I look forward to learning those results but we simply must provide the resources to get this evidence analyzed now.
We need to pass this bill and fund this bill to help police solve more rapes and give women receive the peace of mind of knowing that everything that can be done to catch their attacker is being done.