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Public Statements

Justice for All Act of 2004

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


JUSTICE FOR ALL ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - October 06, 2004)

(BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT)

Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the original author of the Innocents Protection Act, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. LaHood).

(Mr. LaHOOD asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. LaHOOD. Mr. Speaker, I offer my thanks to the chairman of the committee for hanging in there with us and being so persistent about this important piece of legislation. My thanks to the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Delahunt) for also hanging in there with us 5 years ago when he and I collaborated on this and introduced this bill. I think we had an idea it would take this long, but I think we are getting close. And if we can persuade the other body that this is the right approach and a good bill, I think we will have come a long way over the last 5 years to perfect a bill.

I really thank the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner). He really has helped us perfect this idea that there has to be 100 percent certainty in capital cases and in death penalty cases.

As a proponent of capital punishment, I believe very strongly that it can be a deterrent, but there has to be 100 percent certainty; and that is really what one of the titles the Innocents Protection Act's title of this bill really allows for and provides for. We could not be here today without really the leadership of the chairman. So I am grateful to him.

When we look in the eyes of people like Kirk Bloodsworth and Debbie Smith and to be able to tell them that we are getting close to solving some very serious problems and really trying to get to perfection in a flawed system. I am very proud of the students at the Northwestern University in Chicago for the work that they did that really highlighted the flaw in this system after a study where they looked at all death penalty cases in Illinois.

And as a result of their study, 12 people were released from death row because it was found that they were innocent. And at that point I think we all realized that there were 12 people on the street that were guilty of the crimes that were free people. And that kind of initiative and that kind of study really emboldened us to move ahead with this legislation. We could not have done it without them.

We could not have done it without the determination of people like Kirk Bloodsworth and Debbie Smith and the chairman and the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Delahunt).

Mr. Speaker, I have prepared remarks that really go into more detail, but I just wanted to be here today to say thanks to all those who have had the determination to make this happen. I ask all Members to support this bill.

[Begin Insert]

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a supporter of the death penalty, and supporter of this bill. In the 106th and 107th Congresses, I sponsored the Innocence Protection Act with Mr. DELAHUNT, which is now included as section 3 in the Justice For All Act.

I am a proponent of the death penalty, as a deterrent to violent crime, and this bill provides the materials necessary to repair our flawed system. I believe that those of us that support the death penalty have a responsibility to ensure it is applied fairly. As a just society, we must condemn the guilty, exonerate the innocent, and protect all Americans' fundamental right to truth. It is my belief that this legislation allows us to save the death penalty, to know that we are utilizing it in instances where we are confident of wrongdoing.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot afford one more innocent life to be lost due to inexperienced counsel, or unprocessed DNA kits. We must permit inmates access to post-conviction DNA testing to establish innocence and compensate those who have served time for crimes they did not commit.

In order to continue to rightfully punish our guilty, we must establish minimum standards of competency for counsel in capital cases. As long as innocent Americans are on death row, the guilty remain on our streets. This legislation would increase public confidence in our Nation's judicial system as it relates to the death penalty. Individuals have spent years on death row for crimes they did not commit.

A death sentence is the ultimate punishment. Its absolute finality commands that we be 100 percent certain of an individual's guilt. In protecting the innocent, we also make sure the guilty do not go free.

I applaud the chairman for his determination in crafting this bipartisan piece of legislation that assures fundamental accuracy and fairness in our judicial system.

[End Insert]

(BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. LaHood). Pursuant to House Resolution 823, the previous question is ordered on the bill and on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner).

The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner).

The amendment was agreed to.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the engrossment and third reading of the bill.

The bill was ordered to be engrossed and read a third time, and was read the third time.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the passage of the bill.

The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the ayes appeared to have it.

Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, further proceedings on this question will be postponed.

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